Newfoundland Travel Blog - Atlantic Puffin

Updated: Jan 22

Many of us spend years "chasing the dream" in our 9 to 5 jobs. This was certainly the case for me but, after my retirement, I saw that life had more possibilities than previously imagined. As a lover of nature and owner of a small vacation rental in Pouch Cove, I often explore the outdoors, take photos, and share my experiences with guests in order to help them plan their vacation. This is my puffin experience.

Two puffins swimming in opposite directions in the deep blue sea near the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland.
Puffins swimming in the ocean off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada

Meet the Atlantic Puffin, the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador. Puffins are nicknamed the "clown of the ocean" because of their black upperparts, white face and chest, chiseled eyes, and parrot-like, bright-colored beaks. The first time I saw a puffin, I was surprised by its tiny size. Did you know that a mature puffin weighs only about 380 grams (13 ounces), measures only 32 cm (13 inches), and has a wingspan of 53 cm (21 inches)? #atlanticpuffin

Atlantic puffins standing at the entrance of their nests on the grass covered cliffs of Gull Island, Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.
Atlantic puffins at their nest entrances in the cliffs of Gull Island, Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.

By far, the largest puffin nesting colony in Newfoundland is at Gull Island at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, a protected area accessible only by boat. Puffin watching boat tours come within feet of Gull Island's coastline, providing guests the opportunity to view thousands of puffin and other seabirds soaring overhead, swimming in close proximity to the boat, and nesting in the cliffs. #ecologicalreserve, #gullisland

Dense population of seabirds, including Atlantic puffin, common murre, and razorbills, gathered on the cliffs of Gull Island.
Thousands of colonies of puffin and other seabirds return annually to nest on the cliffs at Gull Island, Witless Bay.

In September, the puffin leaves the coast of Newfoundland to return to the open sea where it will spend the winter. Although puffin mate for life, the pair often do not see each other through the winter. In early May, both return to that same nest as previous years and, on reuniting, perform a beak rubbing ceremony. #puffin

Two puffin at their nest in the grassy cliffs of Gull Island, Witless Bay. The near puffin appears to be sheltering an egg.
Atlantic puffin pair at their nest on Gull Island.

Puffin who have not yet paired up gather on rocks near the nesting colony and await inspection by potential partners. Males and females have similar appearances with the only noticeable difference being their size. The puffin's nest is prepared by both the male and female. Only one egg is laid per couple per year and incubated over a period of about 45 days. Both partners watch the nest and, in succession, one leaves to fish and return with the meal to feed the family.

Puffin standing atop its nest at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, an egg, partly covered by soil, visible inside the nest.
Puffin standing atop its nest at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, an egg, partly under soil, visible inside the nest.

Puffin have a dietary preference for small fish. As they excel at flying and are quite agile swimmers, they are proficient fishers. The pointed ridges inside their beak and on their tongue allow them to carry up to ten fish at a time. As other birds try to steal its meal, puffins must work tirelessly to return a meal to its family.

Puffin in flight, all alone in the vast blue sky, returning to its nest on Gull Island, carrying a small fish in its beak.
Atlantic Puffin flying overhead and carrying a small fish in its beak.

Pufflings, as the little puffins are called, are ready to fly after 40-80 days of hatching. The adults will leave the nest several days before the young, necessitating the pufflings to travel on their own. Pufflings fly at night to avoid predators, using astral markers as directional guides. Unfortunately, these young birds sometimes become disoriented by the city lights and land in nearby communities. The chances of puffins surviving on land are extremely slim and their best chance of survival is their return to the ocean. #puffling

There are rescue groups, such as the "Puffin Patrol" in Witless Bay, Newfoundland, that, work with volunteers to search for land-lost pufflings and arrange for their release back to sea the following morning. #puffinpatrol, #witlessbay


A trip to Newfoundland's east coast just wouldn't be complete without a visit to see the puffins. I visit every year and, each time, am as captivated as if it was my first visit. I'm sure you will agree that your Newfoundland travel itinerary will be made all the more complete when you include plans to see these amazing sea birds. Please follow my Newfoundland Travel Blog to see my work on some other popular tourist attractions in eastern Newfoundland. I'd be delighted to hear from you so why not contact me today? #seabird, #newfoundland, #thingstodoinnewfoundland, #travelitinerary


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