Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)

Taxonomy

Monotypic. Was once placed in a monotypic genus Lunda
 

Identification

Essentially unmistakable. Somewhat larger than Atlantic or Horned Puffins, with largely black plumage. Alternate-plumaged adult has a white face mask terminating in long cream-gold plumes which sweep behined the eye onto the neck. Basic-plumaged adult has a much-reduced orange bill (noticably narrowed at the dark base), a residual trace of the face mask and vestigial plumes behined the eye. In both plumages, the legs are bright orange.


A splendid Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) in breeding condition. Common throughout the Aleutians, tens of thousands were present in the Umnak Channel. Photograph copyright of Angus Wilson©.

Immature is sooty-brown above with grayish-brown or whitish underparts. The bill is even narrower than basic-plumaged adult. The bill is dark at first but becomes more yellowish (especially at tip) with time.
 

Where and When

Breeding is restricted to the North Pacific and Bering Sea. In Asia, breeds in northern Japan, Kurile Islands, Sea of Okhotsk, Kolyuchin Islands, Sakhalin, Kamchatka and the Commander Islands. In North America, breeds from the Diomede Islands and Cape Thompson south through the Bering Sea islands, throughout the Aleutian Archipelago, Alaskan Peninsula, Kodiak Island, southeastern Alaska and south to Santa Barbara County (San Migel Island) in California.


Dense rafts of Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) mark the strong tidal rips that swirl around the Baby Islands in the Umnak Channel. Huge numbers of alcids and Short-tailed Shearwaters are attracted to these turbulent waters. Photograph copyright of Angus Wilson©.

Winters at sea south of breeding range. Vagrants have been recorded in Hawaii, Maine and Sweden.


 

Photographs on the web

Adult on rock Photo by Dennis Paulson

Fantastic detail of head and bill Photo of a captive bird in the Oregon Aquarium, Newport Oregon by Don Baccus

more detail of head and bill Photo of a captive bird in the Oregon Aquarium, Newport Oregon by Don Baccus

Many thanks to Tony Pym for allowing me to use his photo.
 

Literature

Gaston, A. J. and Jones, I. L. (1998) The Auks. Bird Families of the World 4. Oxford University Press.

Kataoka, Y., & M. Mizuno. (1999) [Changes in the number of breeding pairs of Tufted Puffins, Lunda cirrhata, around Kiritappu, Hokkaido {Japan}.] Strix 17: 1-14.


Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson
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