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Ask A Zoologist: Why Are We Able To See Puffins Only During A Few Months?

Ask A Zoologist: Why Are We Able To See Puffins Only During A Few Months?

Phil Uwe Widiger
Words by
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Published May 7, 2018

Puffins are in many ways a symbol of Iceland. While some eat them, others buy them as cuddle toys from one of the puffin tourist stores in downtown Reykjavík. Only a few people, however, know why they can actually only be seen in Iceland for about three months during the summer. We asked the zoologist Edda Elísa Magnúsdóttir for further clarification on this subject.

“The Atlantic puffin is a pelagic seabird, meaning that they are adapted to living in deep, open waters. The puffins can dive as deep as 10m and even more when hunting for pelagic fish such as the capelin and sand lance. The Atlantic puffins spend the winter in various locations, most commonly in the open waters of the North Atlantic ranging as far as south of Spain and the Mediterranean Sea. The puffins from Iceland spend their winters primarily in the Labrador Sea, between Canada and Greenland, and at the Charlie Gibbs fracture zone south of Greenland where food is abundant in the winter.”

“Being an open water bird species, the puffin is not dependent on dry land unless when it is time to nest, therefore, the puffin is only found in nesting colonies when the abundance of prey is the highest close to the nesting grounds. In Iceland that is approximately from May until August. Once the summer is ceasing and fledglings have taken off, the parents head back out to the open waters where prey is more abundant.”

Read more about puffins here.


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