Hakeem Almidan

Why do puffins often have mutliple fish in their beaks at once?

Have you ever noticed that puffins often simultaneously carry multiple fish in their beaks at once?

It’d be something like this:

Puffin with multiple fish in beak

Puffin with multiple fish in beak (Source)

I thought this was interesting, and I had so many questions, including:

Below, I attempt to answer each question.

Do they catch them all in one scoop?

According to this Oxford University study, the answer is no. Puffins make multiple dives per hunt (a.k.a. bout), catching about 1 fish in each dive. They average about 25 dives per hunt.

How come the fish are so organized?

According to BBC, in this article, puffins stack fish in their beaks using a combination of their tounge and beaks.

Their beaks contain ‘tentacles’, which are like small teeth that keep the fish in place. And they use their tounges to push up existing fish while openning their mouths to catch new ones.

Do they hide their food while catching other fish? Why do other birds not steal them?

Once puffins catch a fish they keep it in their mouth. So this shouldn’t be a problem, unless other birds literally steal the food off their mouths. And according to this article, that actually has happened before, where seagulls (of course it’s damn seagulls) were witnessed trying to steal food of a puffin’s mouth.

Is this a ‘flex’?

It doesn’t seem like it. Their mating/courtship protocol doesn’t usually involve fish. But since I haven’t found too much evidence of that, I’d say that’s up for investigation!

What type of fish do they mostly catch?

According to this Oxford University study, they mostly feed on sand eel.

Side note:

While looking into this, I found out that there’s another type of bird that stacks fish in their beak! The bird’s name is the Razorbill (a.k.a. Alca torda). Here is a picture of it carrying fish like a puffin:

Razorbill with multiple fish in beak

Razorbill with multiple fish in beak (Source)

But according to this study (the same Oxford study mentioned above) puffins do tend to carry more fish overall. Razorbills can carry 2 to 10 fish, whereas puffins can carry up to 50!

Like what you're seeing? Subscribe below to recieve notifications of new posts ⬇️

Promise not to send more than 1 email per month (not counting subscription confirmation email) 👨‍💻

comments powered by Disqus