You gotta love puffins.

As I say you gotta love puffins.

Well they are cute and because they breed on offshore islands the difficulty of getting to see them adds to the mystique.   They are truly an aquatic beast, rarely seen on land spending most of their time in the water far out to sea when no breeding.  Ireland though is a great place to get close and personal.

You would think it would be easy.  After all the global population is over 10,000,000 which sounds healthy but in many places it is declining and considered vulnerable. But here are only a few places they can be seen.

I saw them during my visit to Skellig Michael in June (click here). While they breed at the Cliffs of Moher near my home base in Clare, it is hard to get a good viewing point so after four years I still hadn’t seen any.  Skellig Michael though is a different matter. You can’t avoid them at this time of the year.

A small black and white bird, about 30 cm in length, a member of the Auk family which includes guillemots, razorbills and auks themselves. But the puffin fascinates because evolution has dealt it so many attractive features. A very distinctive beak which from the side is broad and triangular and becomes brightly patterned in orange and yellow during the breeding season, orange webbed feet and eye ornaments to match. Their upright stance and waddling gait is endearing.



Defying gravity


Their short wings seem to be more designed for moving in water than air and watching them in flight is hilarious. A running take off, madly flapping and you are sure they will crash into the cliff but a quick change of direction at the last minute saves them.  Landing is just as problematic and a crash landing is the rule.


Taking flight



During the breeding season they live in burrows or in crevices and caves in the rocks and patrol during the day interacting with neighbours.  I could have watched them for hours.  Once the chicks (pufflings they are called) are hatched they head to the sea and don’t return to land for several years. They start breeding at about 5 years of age and then live til about 30.


Perfect puffin territory


Standing guard in front of a burrow


Or nesting in a cave

I could ramble on about them for ever but there are plenty of sites that can tell you everything if you are interested in learning more so I would direct you there.

For the moment I will just let my pictures do the talking and use them to express my gratitude at having such a close encounter.


Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland, Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “You gotta love puffins.

  1. Elaine

    It was interesting to me that one of the Puffins in your pictures seems to have a band on it’s foot.
    Thank you for another great story


    It was interesting to me that one of the Puffins in your pictures seems to have a band on it’s foot.

    Thank you for another great story.


  2. Sharon Lasher

    Gorgeous photos!!

  3. Hi there,
    Love your photos of puffins ( One of my favourite sea birds along with the artic tern). Do you follow ‘bird watch Ireland’? I was reading recently that Puffins are under amber alert in Europe. The Skelligs population seems healthy though. I am enjoying reading your blog. Stephanie 🙂

  4. ronanod

    Wonderful photography Bob. Perhaps you might be interested in this photographing Ireland project based on the John Hinde Collection of postcards:

    • Thanks ronanod. What a fascinating project. As it happens I was an avid postcard collector. Mainly of Western Australia and gold mining days. I wished I had known about this earlier because I would love to have contributed. I don’t do twitter though so that might be an issue. It’s hard enough keeping up with Facebook and WordPress.

      • ronanod

        Hi Bob, No worries. Lot’s of Hinde pics left! I think there are about 400 altogether and we’re at about 50!

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