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Common name Atlantic puffin
Scientific name Fratercula arctica
Type Seabirds
Status Migrator

Medium-sized seabird (approx 29 cm or 11.5 in). Dark upperparts and head and white underparts. White sides of the face and cheeks. Red eye ring. Large bill, triangular in shape and squeezed laterally, red with a blue-grey base and yellow border lines. Reddish legs and in a set back position. More discreet winter plumage, a less showy bill with a greyish tone. Clumsy on the ground but a great swimmer in the water.


Marine environment

Where it lives

Species very common in the seas of northern Europe and the Atlantic in general. Pelagic during the winter and with a tendency to settle on cliffs with sides containing grass vegetation during the breeding season.

How it lives

Occasional wintering bird and present especially during its migratory passage in the province, on its journeys to the Canary Islands. The Atlantic Puffin breeds in colonies (there are no breeding populations in the Iberian Peninsula). Nests excavated in small holes of up to one metre in length in which there are several galleries and more than one couple is settled. Single egg layings. It locates its colonies always near rich and abundant fishing banks and feeds on fish and crustaceans that it captures while diving. First the puffin detects the prey, usually in flight or immersing the head into the water. Then it dives and catches it. It is typical to see this seabird transporting the fish in its bill. Very aggressive with seagulls and other parasitic seabirds.

Where it can be seen in Malaga

To watch the puffin in Malaga it is necessary to sail. Embarking on the Melillero (the ferry covering the trip between Malaga and Melilla) is one of the best options to observe this pelagic bird. Occasionally it has also been watched from Punta de Calaburras (Mijas).

Curious facts

"Fratercula" was the Latin medieval term to refer to friars, which in the monasteries of the Middle Ages wore black and white robes, similar to this bird's plumage. They are colloquially known in Spanish as "payasos" ("clowns") or "pericos de mar". Chicks of puffins, when they are some six weeks old, go into the sea at night and swim to get away from where they have been hatched. They spend several years in the open sea until they touch the coast again.

Wintering Summer Resident Migration