Puffins are any of three small species of alcids (auks) in the bird genus
Fratercula with a brightly coloured beak during the breeding season. These
are pelagic seabirds that feed primarily by diving in the water. They
breed in large colonies on coastal cliffs or offshore islands, nesting
in crevices among rocks or in burrows in the soil. Two species, the Tufted
Puffin and Horned Puffin, are found in the North Pacific Ocean, while
the Atlantic Puffin is found in the North Atlantic Ocean.
All puffin species have predominantly black or black and white plumage,
a stocky build, and large beaks. They shed the colourful outer parts
of their bills after the breeding season, leaving a smaller and duller
beak. Their short wings are adapted for swimming with a flying technique
under water. In the air, they beat their wings rapidly (up to 400 times
per minute) in swift flight, often flying low over the ocean's surface.
The puffins are stocky, short-winged and short-tailed birds, with black
upper parts and white or brownish-grey underparts. The head has a black
cap, the face is mainly white, and the feet are orange-red. The bill
appears large and colourful during the breeding season. The colourful
outer part of the bill is shed after the breeding season, revealing
a smaller and duller true bill beneath.
Although the puffins are vocal at their breeding colonies, they are
silent at sea. They fly relatively high above the water, typically
10 m (30 ft) as compared with the 1.6 m (5 ft) of other auks.