The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica).
A seabird species in the auk family. It is a pelagic bird that feeds primarily by diving for fish, but also eats other sea creatures, such as squid and crustaceans. Its most obvious characteristic is its brightly coloured beak during the breeding seasons. Also known as the Common Puffin, it is the only puffin species which is found in the Atlantic Ocean. The curious appearance of the bird, with its colourful huge bill and its striking piebald plumage, has given rise to nicknames such as "clown of the ocean" and "sea parrot".
The Atlantic Puffin is 28–34 cm (11-13.5 in) in length, with a 50–60 cm (20-24 in) wingspan. The male is generally slightly larger than the female, but they are coloured alike. This bird is mainly black above and white below, with gray to white cheeks and red-orange legs. The bill is large and triangular, and during the breeding season is bright orange with a patch of blue bordered by yellow at the rear. The characteristic bright orange bill plates grow before the breeding season and are shed after breeding. The bills are used in courtship rituals, such as the pair tapping their bills together. During flight, it appears to have grey round underwings and a white body; it has a direct flight low over the water. The related Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata) from the North Pacific looks very similar but has slightly different head ornaments. The Atlantic Puffin is typically silent at sea, except for soft purring sounds it sometimes makes in flight. At the breeding colonies the birds make a deep growl.
About 95% of the Atlantic puffins in North America breed around Newfoundland's coastlines. The largest puffin colony in the western Atlantic (estimated at more than 260,000 pairs) can be found at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, south of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Puffin viewing has also started to become popular in Elliston Newfoundland, previously named Bird Island Cove, located near Trinity. Here, puffins have been known to be tame enough to get even 2 or 3 feet away from them.
Our apologies for the quality of these photos, but they were taken with a 300mm lens and the Puffins were too far away to get better shots. The photographs were taken near Ciboux Island (Bird Islands) off Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Unlike the Puffins in Elliston Newfoundland, these birds are quite wild and stay well away from the boats. Humans are not permitted on Bird Island for a closer look as it is a protected breeding habitat for a myriad of birds. More information available at: Wikipedia.org .
Bird Island, Nova Scotia. 11 August 2009.