Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)
A parent tufted puffin is able to arrange and carry up to a dozen small fish head-to-tail in its bill. They may be able to accomplish this feat with adaptations in their bills that allow them to line up the fish. How they arrange the fishes is unclear because no one has been able to observe them underwater long enough!
During breeding season, this spectacular bird is easily recognized by its black body, orange legs, huge orange and yellow bill, white face and the yellow ear tufts that give it its common name. The males and females are similar in colour and size. At just under 1 kg and up to 40 cm in length, it is larger than its relative, the horned puffin. In the winter, it is less remarkable in appearance. The outer plates of the bill drop off, leaving a small, dark-orange tipped bill. Its face darkens leaving a pale line over the eye and the body fades to dark grey.
Of all the alcids, the tufted puffin's distribution extends furthest out to sea. This bird can be found roaming the Pacific Ocean from British Columbia to Japan and from Alaska to California!
The skins and tufts of these birds were once used by natives of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska for clothing and ornamental work.
Breeding in colonies on coastal islands, the tufted puffin uses natural crevices or burrows and piles them with leaves and grass. Only one egg is laid which is incubated by both parents. Fledging occurs after 47 days, when the independent chick flutters or walks to sea just after dark. There, it will remain for 2 years, roaming the expanses of the northern Pacific Ocean, before returning to shore to breed.
Diet depends on the locality, but in the more northern regions, the most important foods are capelins, sand lances, and squid. Further south, anchovies, herring and smelts are also important, although sand lances remain a staple.