Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section I have tried to provide useful information and statistics about these beautiful birds. As I am based in Scotland ; the majority of the information refers to Scottish locations - however the factual information is applicable to Atlantic puffins in all locations.The information contained in this page has been garnered from a variety of sources - where appropriate I have of course acknowledged sources.Finally - if you have any information that you believe could be of use and would be suitable for inclusion on this page - feel free to contact me.

  1. How many puffins there are in Scotland?
  2. Where are the best places to see puffins in Scotland?
  3. What do puffins eat?
  4. When do they have their young?
  5. Do puffins mate for life?
  6. What sort of noise do puffins make?
  7. How do puffins catch fish?
  8. Are there any Scottish nicknames for puffins?
  9. What is the collective noun for a group of puffins?
  10. How many eggs do a puffin lay each year?

 


 

1) How many puffins there are in Scotland?

600,012... and counting!

Back to top ^

2) Where are the best places to see puffins in Scotland?

East Coast (Fife) - the Isle of May (boats leave daily from Anstruther in the season) is a haven for puffins (the resident warden Therese - told me in April this year that there were 68,000 breeding pairs on the Isle of May this year) and many other types of seabirds.

Over on the West Coast - St Kilda 60 miles off the mainland Scotland, is the largest breeding colony with circa 300,000 pairs.

Staying with the West Coast , a good location is the Island of Lunga in the Treshnish Isles. If you have the time - spend a couple of days on the lovely Island of Mull - and organise a boat trip from Mull to Lunga (if so inclined you can tie in a visit to Staffa and Fingal's Cave). May/June is probably the best time to go.

Further up to the North of Scotland the remote Shetland Isles have upwards of 100,000 breeding pairs.Sumburgh Head on Shetland is a good location.

Back to top ^

3) What do puffins eat?

A selection of fish - but sand-eels are their favourite.

Back to top ^

4) When do they have their young?

Their breeding period is April and the young are born from mid-May onwards.

Back to top ^

5) Do puffins mate for life?

Apparently they do - but they separate during the winter and meet up again in the spring at mating time - they return to the same burrow each year - sweet?

Back to top ^

6) What sort of noise do puffins make?

When flying: a high screeching noise

When in their burrows: a muted sound a bit like a cat purring.

Back to top ^

7) How do puffins catch fish?

You will have seen pictures of puffins with their beaks full of fish - in order to catch the fish Atlantic Puffins have to dive into water (up to 200 feet deep). Their wings are very powerful and they use their webbed feet to control direction whilst underwater. Because the fish are often a fair distance away from the nesting grounds puffins will try to collect as many fish as possible each trip. The puffins have small spikes on the top of the inside of their mouths, they use their tongues to keep the fish secure against the spikes while they catch more fish, then fly back to their burrows.

Back to top ^

8) Are there any Scottish nicknames for puffins?

Yes there are - "clowns of the sea", "tammy norries" and "Red Jimmy" - if you know of any more, let me know and I will add them.

Back to top ^

9) What is the collective noun for a group of puffins?

I found several - parliament, raft, loomery, circus and (to me the strangest) an improbability of puffins!

Back to top ^

10) How many eggs do a puffin lay each year?

The female of a mating pair of puffins typically lays only one egg in their burrow.The egg is laid between May and June and is incubated for approximately 40 days. Once the egg hatches, both parents tend to and feed the chick for a period of about 50 days until it is ready to set off to sea on its own.

Back to top ^