Status: Summer visitor from March to September to sea stacks and cliffs, mainly along the west coast of Ireland.
Conservation Concern: Amber-listed due to its localised breeding population. The European population has been evaluated as Depleted, due to a large historical decline.
Identification: The smallest species of Auk in Ireland, a highly marine species which is only found on land in the breeding season. A black and white seabird, with black above and white below. In the breeding season the parrot like multi-coloured bill and large white patch on the face make adults distinctive and easily recognisable at close quarters. The bill is smaller on the adult in winter and much smaller on the juvenile. At a distance can be told from Guillemot by its small size, thicker body, larger, heavier head and darker underwing.
Similar Species: Unmistakable given good views. Likely to be confused with other Auks in flight.
Call: Deep grunting, mainly from the burrow.
Diet: Marine fish and crustaceans.
Breeding: Attends colonies from April and early August. Nests in colonies in burrows, or sometimes in boulder screes and in cracks in steep cliffs, rather like Razorbills and Black Guillemots. Will utilize rabbit burrows and will evict rabbits. Usually nests in areas that are safe from mammalian predators, for which reason it prefers off- shore islands.
Wintering: Winters far out to sea and not often seen outside of the breeding season.
Where to See: The Puffin is found mainly on the west coast with a scattering of east coast sites. Great Saltee is again a good place to see seabirds, including Puffins. The Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare and Horn Head, in County Donegal, are also accessible sites. If taking a trip to the Skelligs, which themselves have Puffins, look out for Puffin Island, close to the mainland, another good site for the species.
Monitored by: Breeding seabirds are monitored through surveys carried out every 15-20 years, the last was Seabird 2000, which was undertaken between 1998 & 2002.