Hermaness Puffins – Shetland

Group of puffins

Puffins! Aside from being quite photogenic and capable of making even a bang-average photographer look half decent, there’s more to know about these colourful members of the auk family.

Puffins (Fratercula arctica) are sometimes called “sea parrots” or “clowns of the sea” because of their appearance and behaviour. In Shetland they are known as Tammie Norries.

Puffins can flap their wings up to 400 times a minute and fly at up to 50mph.

They can dive down 60m under water in search of food. They use their wings to swim and their webbed feet as a rudder.

Puffins usually pair up with the same partner as previous years – some may have been together for over 20 years. They dig out a burrow using their sharp claws and beak, where they build a nest and lay one egg. When the egg hatches, the chick is known as a puffling.

A puffin’s beak changes colour during the year. In winter, it has a dull grey colour, but in spring it changes to bright orange. It’s thought that the bright colour helps puffins assess potential mates.

In the UK puffins are classed as red-listed and worldwide their conservation status is “Vulnerable” (population declining). These photos were taken during a recent visit to Hermaness National Nature Reserve at the top of Unst in the Shetland Islands, where fortunately they have been no cases of bird flu so far this year.

Puffin on a mound
Pair of puffins
Puffin portrait
Puffins in Thrift