Tufted Puffins

Tufted Puffins (Lunda cirrhata)

Tufted Puffin
Judith Wolfe

Tufted Puffin -  Central Park Zoo

Zoo collection includes: About 15 puffins.

Found in the wild: Tufted puffins are open ocean birds, which come on land only during the breeding season. In fact, Tufted puffins are only “tufted” during the breeding season and molt their eyebrow-like tufts during the late summer/fall. The rest of the year is spent floating along the Northern Pacific, from the Japanese islands north along the Russian coast, across to Alaska, and south even as far as Santa Barbara, California.

See Them at the Central Park Zoo: They can be found at the edge of the ice pack building in the same room as the penguins. They are at the far end of the building and depending on the season have the company of Eider Ducks or Bufflehead Ducks.

Zoo Puffin Habitat: The air temperature is kept between 32-34 degrees F. The water temperature is 42 degrees F and has a depth of 8 feet. The exhibit holds 6,000 gallons of water and is filtered at 150 gallons per minute. Lighting is an important factor for puffins as it stimulates breeding and molting seasons. Because NYC is in the Northern Hemisphere, we are on the same light cycle as the puffins. For example, during summer the days are longer and the sun is brighter. However, during winter, the days are shorter and the sunlight is weaker. You will see examples of this if you visit the Edge of the Icepack building, where both CPZ penguins and puffins are on the Northern Hemisphere’s light cycle.
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Description: These members of the Auk family are able to fly, unlike their southern counterpart the penguin. Their short, rounded wings aid in flight but must be beaten furiously to stay airborne. The wings also act as flippers underwater. They generally weigh up to 28 ounces and are approximately 11 inches tall. Their yellow beaks are much shorter and thicker than penguins, and stand out vibrantly against the black of their feathers.

 What do they eat: In the wild Tufted puffins eat capelin, sand eel, anchovy, Pacific herring, squid, sea urchins, and algae. At the CPZ, puffins are fed capelin, Vitamin E, and salt supplements.

Life span:  Tufted puffins will live approximately 25 years.

Threats: Current threats to Tufted puffins are oil spills, over fishing, and the introduction of the Arctic fox to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

Fun Facts: Puffins may dive deeper than 24 m (80 ft.) to catch fish. Their bills have specialized sharp hooks that help to hold fish. One puffin was seen holding 62 fish in its bill at one time. Puffins are powerful flyers, beating their wings 300-400 times a minute to achieve speeds up to 64 kph (40 mph). Puffins are members of the Alcidae Family (called alcids). The alcids are the Northern hemisphere's ecological counterpart to the penguins. However, unlike penguins, alcids are typically powerful flyers.


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