Tufted Puffin

Common Name: Tufted Puffin

Scientific Name: Fratercula cirrhata


Tufted Puffins are one of the more heavy-set members of the Alcid family, which makes walking on land clumsy and necessitates a slope to give them enough lift to take off into the air. But, underwater they are truely in their element. They appear to "fly" through the ocean with their strong, pointed wings as they chase after their next meal.

Tufted puffins are one of the most beautiful auks - breeding adults are decorated with huge orange bills, white faces and long yellow feather tufts behind each eye, all of which contrast with their glossy black bodies.


Diet is the most striking detail of Tufted Puffin biology. Chicks are fed almost entirely on tiny fish. Adults take a more diverse diet compared to other auks that inhabit the open sea- squid and invertebrates are particularly important.

Identification Tips

  • Length: 12.5 inches
  • Sexes similar
  • Immature similar to adult basic but bill is smaller and darker
  • Pelagic bird only coming ashore to breed
  • Medium to large alcid that dives for food from water surface
  • Very large bill
  • Entirely dark plumage
  • Breeds from coastal Alaska to California, pelagic in winter

Adult Alternate

  • Extremely colorful bill-yellow at base and red at tip
  • White, triangular face patch
  • Yellow tufts extending from behind the eye

Adult basic

  • Duller bill lacks yellow plate at base
  • Dark face
  • Lacks obvious tufts

Similar Species

The large bill separates adults from all other alcids except other puffins, both of which have white underparts. Juvenile Tufted Puffins are similar to Rhinoceros Auklets, but are rounder-headed with a slightly different bill shape.