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Atlantic Puffin: Parrot of the sea

Atlantic Puffins gather on a rock at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Atlantic Puffins gather on a rock at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Readers of BirdWatching in early 2013 voted Atlantic Puffin the fifth most-wanted bird in the United States and Canada. Here’s what you need to know to add it to your life list.

Description, range, and population

DESCRIPTION. Clownlike whitish face and orange, yellow, and bluish gray bill in breeding season. White belly, dark back and wings. Red-orange legs. (ABA Code 1)

RANGE. Breeds off the coasts of Maine, eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Britain, and northern Europe. Winters at sea.

POPULATION. Approximately 500,000 in North America, mostly in Newfoundland and Labrador. 3-4 million worldwide.

View a real-time eBird map.

Maine locations and cruises

Eastern Egg Rock: Hardy Boat Cruises

Cap’n Fish’s Whale Watch: Monhegan Boat Line


Matinicus Rock: Matinicus Excursions

Seal Island: Old Quarry Ocean Adventures

Petit Manan Island: Bar Harbor Whale Watching Tours

Bar Harbor Boat Tours: Robertson Sea Tours Adventures

Machias Seal Island: Bold Coast Charter Company


Canadian locations and cruises

Machias Seal Island: Sea Watch Tours

Witless Bay Ecological Preserve: O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours


Down East Spring Birding Festival, May 23-26, 2014


Bird Treks: Grand Manan, New Brunswick, September 18-22, 2013


Eagle-Eye Tours: Newfoundland Circumnavigation, September 18-27, 2013, June 2-12, 2014; Nova Scotia, September 8-17, 2015

Field Guides: Maine: Birding Downeast, May 31-June 8, 2014, May 30-June 7, 2015

Partnership for International Birding: Birding in Newfoundland: Coastlines and More, July 13-19 and 20-26, 2014

Wings: New Brunswick — A Week on Grand Manan, September 6-13, 2014; The Maine Coast in Fall, September 13-20, 2014


Tours to watch for

Maine Birding Trail: Puffins and Bicknell’s ThrushPuffins and Grouse

About our poll

We wanted to know, and you told us.

Earlier this year, we published a list of 240 bird species that occur in the United States and Canada and asked readers of BirdWatching magazine to choose the 10 that they wanted to see most.

We derived our list from the authoritative ABA Checklist. We included all rare, casual, and accidental species (ABA Checklist Codes 3, 4, and 5); regularly occurring North American species that are not widespread (Codes 1 and 2); and one species that was once dangerously close to extinction but today is surviving in captivity and struggling to become naturally re-established (Code 6). We omitted most species not native to North America.


Nearly 900 of our readers participated. Their 10 most-wanted birds include three owls, a handful of endangered species, a clown-faced puffin, a blue-footed seabird that is rarely spotted in the United States, and America’s one and only condor.

We presented the 10 most-wanted birds in the August 2013 issue of BirdWatching. Our article included not only the descriptions, population info, and eBird maps above but also 10 things you didn’t know about each species.

Originally Published

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