Animals -> Birds -> Seabirds -> Puffins


Labrador Inuit were known to hunt Atlantic Puffin for food [1]. Atlantic Puffin was hunted in winter when these birds were available. Hunters found puffin near open water where the flocks came to feed. During stormy weather puffins sought shelter on shore where they could easily be obtained [2]. Nets were used to hunt puffin in the Arctic. The woven net was attached to a long stick held by the hunter who would steady himself along a cliff-side waiting for a passing flock [3].

Tufted Puffin was eaten by the Coast Salish. Individual bands would own a nesting-colony and would harvest the birds and eggs during breeding season. The meat and eggs were eaten or used for trading [4]. In spring and summer, the Tufted Puffin was also eaten by Haida, Wainwright Inupiat and Tlingit of the Forrester Islands, Southeast Alaska. Alaskan fishermen could easily hunt puffins with hooks that were baited and attached to lines. The puffins loved the herring used as bait in salmon trolling [5, 6]. Tufted Puffin meat was roasted or boiled by the Coast Salish. To roast, the birds were propped up with sticks beside an open fire. To boil, hot stones were placed in a basket with water. The meat was also baked or steamed in an outdoor pit using hot rocks [4].


1.         Labrador Inuit Association: Our Footprints Are Everywhere: Inuit Land Use and Occupancy in Labrador. Nain: Labrador Inuit Association; 1977.

2.         Taylor JG: Labrador Eskimo Settlements of the Early Contact Period, vol. Series: Publications in Ethnology, No. 9. Ottawa: National Musems of Canada; 1974.

3.         Vaughan R: Birds and Arctic peoples. In: In Search of Arctic Birds. edn. London: T & A D Poyser; 1992: 20-48.

4.         Ashwell R: Food, Fishing & Hunting; Cooking Methods. In: Coast Salish: Their Art, Culture and Legends. Volume 1st edition, edn. British Columbia: Hancock House Publishers Inc.; 1978: 28-55.

5.         Nelson RK: Hunters of The Northern Ice. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press; 1969.

6.         Moss ML: Haida and Tlingit use of seabirds from the Forrester Islands, Southeast Alaska. Journal of Ethnobiology 2007, 27(1):28-45.

Puffins are seabirds, related to auks and murres, known for their large, triangular, and colourful bills and their colonial nature. Puffins, like most other auks and murres, breed on offshore islands, laying a single egg in a shallow burrow or rocky crevice. Puffins are agile in water, where they pursue small, schooling fish, but clumsy on land. Puffins can live beyond 30 years of age, but wait until 3-6 years of age to breed for the first time. In North America, species of puffins include the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), with close to one million breeding birds present in the northwest Atlantic [1], and the Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata), with over two million breeding birds in the northern Pacific [2]. Atlantic Puffins weigh between 310 and 550 g and have white underparts, black upperparts, a whitish face mask, and a multi-coloured bill, ranging from yellow and blue gray at the base to reddish organge at the tip [1]. Tufted Puffins weigh around 800 g and are entirely black during the breeding season, except for their bright orange bill, white face mask, and unique long, yellowish feathers hanging down from behind the eyes to the back of the neck.  Tufted Puffins feed their young fish, but outside of the breeding season, rely primarily on squid and krill, ranging farther from land and spending more time in the open ocean than other puffins, auks and murres [2].


1.         Lowther P, Diamond AW, Kress SW, Robertson GJ, Russell K: Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica). In: The Birds of North America Online. Edited by Poole A. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; 2002.

2.         Piatt JF, Kitaysky AS: Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata). In: The Birds of North America Online. Edited by Poole A. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; 2002.


Distribution maps provided below, unless otherwise stated, were obtained from Birds of North America Online, maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and all pictures provided below were obtained from Encyclopedia of Life
Atlantic Puffin
© Blake Matheson
Supplier: Flickr: EOL Images
Photographer: Blake Matheson
Tufted Puffin
Photographer: Dewhurst, Donna