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Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Distribution and population
The Atlantic Puffin can be found throughout the North Atlantic Ocean, from north-west Greenland (to Denmark) to the coastline of Newfoundland (Canada) in the west, and from north Norway down to the Canary Islands, Spain in the east (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Trend justification
Populations are suspected to be declining rapidly through the combined impact of predation by invasive species, pollution, food shortages caused by the depletion of fisheries and adult mortality in fishing nets.

Behaviour Atlantic Puffins are pursuit-divers that catch most of their prey within 30 m of the water surface (Piatt & Nettleship 1985). They are capable of diving to 60 m, although they usually forage at depths less than 30 m (Piatt & Nettleship 1985, Burger and Simpson 1986). Birds gather on the water around nesting sites, sometimes for several days, before taking up residence on land (BirdLife International 2000). They are frequently kleptoparasitised by Kittiwakes (Camphuysen et al 2007). Breeding females make a greater contribution to feeding chicks than do males, whereas males spend a greater proportion of time at the breeding burrow (Creelman and Storey 1991). Diet They prey on 'forage' species, including juvenile pelagic fishes, such as herring Clupea harengus, juvenile and adult capelin Mallotus villosus, and sandeel Ammodytes spp. (Barrett et al. 1987). At times, they also prey on juvenile demersal fishes, such as gadids (Harris and Hislop 1978, Martin 1989, Rodway and Montevecchi 1996). Sandeels usually form the majority of the prey fed to chicks (Corkhill 1973, Hislop and Harris 1985, Harris and Wanless 1986, Martin 1989, Harris and Riddiford 1989), and many chicks starve during periods of low sandeel abundance (Martin 1989), although there are exceptions, such as at Skomer Island in 1969 when sprat made up the majority of the diet fed to chicks (Corkhill 1973). Foraging range This is a relatively wide-ranging species. When feeding chicks, birds generally forage within 10 km of their colony, but may range as far as 50 to 100 km or more (Harris 1984, Rodway and Montevecchi 1996). A boat transect run on one day in 1970 found that 85% of all birds seen were concentrated within just 3 km of the colony (BirdLife International 2000), but other studies have found peaks in the density of foraging birds at up to 40 km distance from the colony (Webb et al. 1985, Stone et al. 1992, Stone et al. 1993, BirdLife International 2000). Similarly, surveys at the Isle of May, Scotland, suggest that birds forage close to the breeding colony, but also at other sites up to 40 km away (Wanless et al. 1990, BirdLife International 2000). Various studies (Pearson 1968, Corkhill 1973, Bradstreet and Brown 1985, BirdLife International 2000), based on different breeding colonies, have estimated the theoretical maximum foraging radius at anywhere from 32 km (Corkhill 1973) to 200 km (Bradstreet and Brown 1985).

Barrett, R.T., Anker-Nilsson, T., Rikardsen, F., Valde, K., Røv, N. and Vader, W. 1987. The food, growth and fledging success of Norwegian puffin chicks Fratercula arcitica in 1980-1983. Ornis Scandinavica 18: 73-83.

BirdLife International. 2000. The Development of Boundary Selection Criteria for the Extension of Breeding Seabird Special Protection Areas into the Marine Environment. OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic. Vlissingen (Flushing).

Burger, A.E. and Simpson, M. 1986. Diving depths of Atlantic puffins and common murres. Auk 103: 828-830.

Corkhill, P. 1973. Food and feeding ecology of puffins. Bird Study 20(3): 207-220.

Creelman, E. and Storey, A.E. 1991. Sex-differences in reproductive-behavior of Atlantic puffins. Condor 93(2): 390-398.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Durant, J.; Anker-Nilssen, T.; Stenseth, N. C. 2003. Trophic interactions under climate fluctuations: the Atlantic puffin as an example. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 270: 1461-1466.

Harris, M.P. 1984. A. & C. Black Publishers Ltd, London, UK.

Harris, M.P. and Hislop, J.R.G. 1978. The food of young puffins. Journal of Zoology 185: 213-236.

Harris, M.P. and Riddiford, N.J. 1989. The food of some young seabirds on Fair Isle in 1986-88. Scottish Birds 15: 119-125.

Harris, M.P. and Wanless, S. 1986. The food of young razorbills on the Isle of May and a comparison with that of young guillemots and puffins. Ornis Scandinavica 17: 41-46.

Hislop, J.R.G. and Harris, M.P. 1985. Recent changes in the food of young puffins (Fratercula arctica) on the Isle of May in relation to fish stocks. Ibis 127: 234-239.

Martin, A.R. 1989. The diet of Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica and northern gannet Sula bassana chicks at a Shetland colony during a period of changing prey availability. Bird Study 36(3): 170-180.

Pearson, T.H. 1968. The feeding ecology of sea-bird species breeding on the Farne Islands, Northumberland. Journal of Animal Ecology 37: 521-552.

Piatt, J.F., Nettleship, D.N. 1985. Diving depths of four alcids. The Auk 102: 293-297.

Rodway, M.S., Montevecchi, W. A. 1996. Sampling methods for assessing the diets of Atlantic puffin chicks . Marine Ecology Progress Series 144(1-3): 41-55.

Sandvik, H.; Erikstad, K. E;, Barrett, R. T.; Yoccoz, N. G. 2005. The effect of climate on adult survival in five species of North Atlantic seabirds. Journal of Animal Ecology 74: 817-831.

Stone, C.J., Harrison, N.M., Webb, A. & Best, B.J. Seabird distribution around Skomer and Skokholm Islands, June 1990. 1992. Seabird distribution around Skomer and Skokholm Islands, June 1990.

Stone, C.J., Webb, A., Barton, T.R. & Gordon, J.R.W. 1993. Seabird distribution around Skomer and Skokholm Islands, June 1992.

Wanless, S., Harris, M.P. and Morris, J.A. 1990. A comparison of feeding areas used by individual common murres (Uria aalge) razorbills (Alca torda) and an Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) during the breeding season. Colonial Waterbirds 13: 16-24.

Webb, A., Tasker, M.L. and Greenstreet, S.P.R. 1985. The distribution of guillemots (Uria aalge), razorbills (Alca torda) and puffins (Fratercula arctica) at sea around Flamborough Head, June 1984.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Fratercula arctica. Downloaded from on 07/10/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 07/10/2015.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Puffin (Fratercula arctica) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Alcidae (Auks)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,620,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment