Atlantic Puffin Vs Horned Puffin: How to Tell the Difference

🐦 Atlantic puffins have a triangular beak with a bright orange interior, while horned puffins have a red triangular beak with a small protrusion above the eye. These are the main visual differences between the two species.

Puffins are a fascinating group of seabirds and delight bird enthusiasts. There are several species of puffins, but the Atlantic and horned puffins share much of their range in the north Atlantic ocean. While they may look similar at first glance, they have distinct differences that make them easily distinguishable.

Atlantic puffins have a more triangular and larger beak that is bright orange. In contrast, horned puffins sport a smaller, more triangular beak with a red tip. Moreover, horned puffins have a small curved protrusion above their eyes. This blog will take you through the differences that will help you identify the atlantic and horned puffin.

Why Identify Atlantic Puffin Vs Horned Puffin?

Atlantic Puffin Vs Horned Puffin: How To Tell The Difference

Have you ever spotted a puffin bird and wondered whether it was an Atlantic or horned puffin? Both species are similar in size and shape, so identification can be challenging. We will help you distinguish between the two species and understand the significance of identifying them correctly.

Ecological And Environmental Benefits Of Identifying The Species

Identifying the species of puffin bird is not only important for enthusiasts, but it also has a significant impact on the environment and ecosystem. Here are some reasons why:

  • Conservation efforts: Identifying the species is crucial to the conservation of these birds. The Atlantic puffin and horned puffin are vulnerable species on the international union for Conservation of nature (iucn) red list. By knowing which species is in an area, conservationists can design effective protection strategies to preserve their population.
  • Monitoring global warming: Puffin birds mostly feed on small fish such as sand eels vulnerable to water temperature changes. Identification of species can help organizations monitor the birds’ population trends and growth rate.
  • Understanding ecosystems: Puffin birds are important components of marine ecosystems. The presence or absence of a species in an area indicates the ecological health of the ecosystem. Identification of species can help researchers understand the relationship between the environment and the species that inhabit it.

Habitat And Breeding Habits

Apart from conservation and ecological significance, understanding the differences in habitat and breeding habits can also be helpful in identifying the puffin species. Here are some characteristics to look for:

  • Habitat: The atlantic puffin is found in the north atlantic, whereas the horned puffin can be found on the pacific coast of north america and asia. The atlantic puffin usually nests in underground burrows on cliff edges, while the horned puffin typically nests on rocky cliffs near the sea.
  • Physical appearance: One of the most obvious differences between the two species of puffin is their bills. The atlantic puffin has a triangular, colored bill while the horned puffin has a pale-colored triangular bill with a small fleshy horn above the eye. Another difference between the two species is their plumage, with the atlantic puffin sporting a brighter beak and harlequin-like features.
  • Breeding: Atlantic puffins breed in large colonies, while horned puffins are solitary nesters. Atlantic puffins also have a longer breeding period compared to the horned puffins that breed between may and june.

Identifying the atlantic puffin vs horned puffin can be tricky, but understanding the differences in habitat, breeding, and physical characteristics can help differentiate them. Apart from the joy of identifying bird species, being able to tell the difference has significant ecological and environmental significance.

By identifying the species, we can also play a vital role in preserving and conserving our beautiful planet’s small but mighty inhabitants.

Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic puffins, also known as common puffins, are one of the world’s most famous and recognizable seabirds with their black and white feathers, distinctive beak, and bright orange webbed feet. These birds belong to the family alcidae and are part of a group of birds adapted to life at sea.

Here, we will discuss the social behavior, feeding habits, and mating behavior of the atlantic puffin.

Social Behavior

Atlantic puffins are social birds and often nest in large colonies, sometimes consisting of thousands of individuals. They are monogamous birds and tend to mate for life. During the breeding season, males establish nesting territories and then court females by offering them fish as gifts.

Feeding Habits

Atlantic puffins are piscivorous, meaning they primarily feed on fish. They use their unique beaks to catch fish by diving into the sea, sometimes at depths up to 60 meters (200 feet) below the surface. Puffins can carry several small fish in their beaks at once, and they usually return to their burrows to feed their chicks.

Mating Behavior

Atlantic puffins are monogamous and mate for life but do not necessarily breed with the same partner yearly. As mentioned previously, males establish nesting territories and court females by offering them fish. Once a pair has formed, they will begin to work together to prepare their burrow or nesting site.

Female puffins will lay a single egg, which they will incubate for up to six weeks. Once the chicks hatch, both parents will work together to feed and care for them until they are ready to fledge.

The atlantic puffin is a fascinating seabird that has captured the hearts of many people around the world. With their unique features and interesting behaviors, these birds are truly a joy to watch and study.

Horned Puffin

Atlantic Puffin Vs Horned Puffin: How To Tell The Difference

Atlantic and horned puffins look similar at first glance. Both have bright, colorful beaks and are beloved by bird enthusiasts worldwide. However, upon closer inspection, there are several key differences. In this blog post, we will discuss the characteristics of the horned puffin.

Social Behavior

Horned puffins are known for their solitary behavior, nesting on rocky cliffs above open water. They tend to return to the same nesting site year after year, forming small colonies. These colonies are relatively isolated and only interact with other puffins when it comes time to mate and breed.

Feeding Habits

Horned puffins are diving birds, capable of remaining underwater for up to one minute. They feed on small fish, squid, and crustaceans. They catch their prey by diving off cliffs into the water. Unlike other birds, horned puffins swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate any indigestible parts, such as bones, feathers, and beaks.

Some interesting facts about horned puffins’ feeding habits:

  • They store fish in their pouches before returning to their nests to feed their chicks.
  • They can carry up to 10 small fish in their bills at once.

Mating Behavior

Horned puffins are monogamous and form strong bonds with their mates. During mating season, male horned puffins use their brightly colored beaks to attract females. They engage in courtship rituals, rubbing bills and making honking sounds. After mating, females lay one egg that both parents take turns incubating for around 40 days.

Some other mating behavior facts about horned puffins include:

  • Horned puffins typically mate for life unless one of the partners dies.
  • When returning to their nests, horned puffins engage in a ‘billing’ ceremony where they touch bills in a greeting gesture.

Horned puffins have fascinating social, feeding and mating behaviors making them a subject of interest for bird watchers and ornithologists alike. Understanding the differences between horned and atlantic puffins can help bird enthusiasts appreciate their unique characteristics.

Physical Features

Atlantic Puffin Vs Horned Puffin: How To Tell The Difference

If you’re planning to visit the north atlantic region, you may encounter two different types of puffins – the atlantic puffin and the horned puffin. Although they are both adorable seabirds with similar coloring, they have distinct physical features that set them apart.

Details On How To Distinguish Between Atlantic And Horned Puffins Based On Physical Characteristics

Atlantic Puffin

The atlantic puffin, also known as the common puffin, is a more abundant species with a global population of around 10 million. Here are some physical features that can help you identify them:

  • They have a triangular-shaped beak with a colorful orange, yellow, and red pattern
  • They have black markings on their head and back with a white belly and face
  • They have a thicker body with shorter wings, which makes their flying look like they’re flapping their wings faster

Horned Puffin

The horned puffin, also known as the tufted puffin, is a rarer species with a total population of around 1 million. Here are some of the physical features that differentiate it from the atlantic puffin:

  • They have a unique feature – two horn-like tufts on either side of their heads
  • They have a colorful beak like the atlantic puffin, but the bottom part is more red than orange
  • They have black feathers on their back and head, but their belly is white like the atlantic puffin
  • They have slightly longer wings, which make their flight more graceful

If you’re lucky enough to spot them both, it’s easy to tell the difference between the atlantic puffin and the horned puffin based on their physical characteristics. Knowing which puffin you’re looking at is a fun souvenir of a north atlantic trip, and their distinctive features and behavior make them a wonder to watch.

Behavioral Differences

Details On How To Distinguish Between Atlantic And Horned Puffins Based On Their Behavior

If you think identifying atlantic and horned puffins is difficult, you are not alone. Many people struggle to tell the two species apart. One way to differentiate between them is by observing their unique behaviors. Here are the key points:

  • Flying style: Atlantic puffins have a flapping glide, whereas horned puffins fly more direct, with rapid wing beats and short glides.
  • Appearance during flight: Atlantic puffins look smaller in flight with shorter wings. They also usually fly alone or in pairs. Horned puffins fly in small groups and have a distinctive white stripe on their wings, making them easier to spot.
  • Behavior on water: Atlantic puffins have a high-speed dive into the water, whereas horned puffins dive slower and deeper, sometimes holding their wings in half-folded positions.
  • Location preferences: Atlantic puffins prefer to be closer to the water surface and stay in more open areas, while horned puffins prefer to be near cliffs and rocky islands.

By paying attention to these behavior differences between the two species, it’s possible to distinguish between atlantic and horned puffins. However, knowing the physical differences is also helpful in identifying them accurately.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Difference Between Atlantic Puffin And Horned Puffin?

Atlantic puffin is smaller with thinner bills. Horned puffin has a black and white striped face with a prominent horn. Atlantic puffin has a more triangular-shaped eye marking while horned puffin has a triangular-shaped black patch behind its eye.

Where Can You Find Atlantic Puffin And Horned Puffin?

Atlantic puffin is found in the north atlantic ocean, while horned puffin is found in the north pacific ocean. Atlantic puffins can be seen in iceland and newfoundland and labrador, while horned puffins can be seen in alaska, siberia, and japan.

What Do Atlantic Puffin And Horned Puffin Eat?

Atlantic puffin eats sand eels, capelin, herring, and sometimes crustaceans. Horned puffin eats fish, squid, and crustaceans. They use their bills to catch their food while swimming.

How Do Atlantic Puffin And Horned Puffin Breed?

Atlantic puffins form long-term pairs and breed in burrows on cliffs. They usually have one egg each year. Horned puffins breed in cliffs, crevices, and sometimes on rocky beach areas. They also have one egg each year.

What Is The Conservation Status Of Atlantic Puffin And Horned Puffin?

Atlantic puffin is currently considered vulnerable due to climate change and overfishing which reduces the availability of their prey. Horned puffin is considered a species of least concern, although some populations are declining due to oil spills and introduced predators.


From the above discussion, it is clear that atlantic puffins and horned puffins are quite similar in appearance, but they have subtle differences that set them apart. Apart from their physical appearance, these two puffin species also differ in their habitat, behavior, and diet.

So, next time you spot a puffin, don’t just assume it’s an atlantic puffin or a horned puffin without a proper analysis. You will need to keenly observe its beak, coloration, size, and location to tell the difference, just like an expert.

Now that you know the key differences between atlantic puffins and horned puffins, you can appreciate the diversity of nature and admire these unique birds even more. Remember to take photos and share your experience with the world. Happy bird watching!

Md Atiqul Hakim

AtiQ's blog, "Wild Bird Lady," is a treasure trove of insights, tips, and captivating stories. Join him on a fascinating journey of exploration, discovery, and celebration of our avian neighbors through engaging articles and breathtaking photographs.

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