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Tufted Puffin Fratercula cirrhata


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Tufted Puffin, summer
credit: Alan D. Wilson/CCSA

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Family: Alcidae, Auks, Murres, Puffins view all from this family

Description ADULT SUMMER Has very dark brown plumage that in most situations appears almost jet-black. Note, however, contrasting gleaming white face. Eye has white iris and red orbital ring, and shaggy golden-yellow tufted plumes arise from behind eye. Laterally flattened bill is massive and horny-looking. Lower mandible is orange-red while upper mandible has orange-red outer half and yellow inner half; note swollen orange base of gape. ADULT WINTER Has entirely dark sooty brown plumage. Eye has pale iris and dull red orbital ring. Bill has smaller plates than in summer and is mainly dull orange, but grubby yellow toward base of upper mandible. JUVENILE Similar to winter adult in plumage terms, but has much smaller, shallower, and stubbier bill.

Dimensions Length: 14 1/2-15 1/2" (37-39 cm)

Habitat Widespread breeding species on Pacific coast, from California (where it is scarce and very local) to Alaska (where it is locally abundant). In breeding season, often seen swimming in inshore seas in vicinity of colonies. Nests in burrows on islands. Outside breeding season, more widespread, but mainly pelagic and offshore.

Observation Tips Easy to see in breeding season if you visit a colony. Otherwise, sightings relate to chance encounters at sea.

Range Western Canada, California, Northwest, Alaska

Voice Mainly silent although incubating birds utter grumbling calls from within burrows.

Discussion Large, plump-bodied and unmistakable alcid, particularly so in breeding season when its head adornments and bill colors lend it an almost comical appearance. Swims sedately and dives frequently after fish. In flight, which is direct and powerful, bright orange-red feet and legs are obvious; webbed feet are proportionately large. Adopts upright posture when standing on rock. Sexes are similar.