Meet the clown of the sea: the Atlantic Puffin

A bird so special that it even has its own festival.

The only puffin native to the Atlantic Ocean and known as the "sea parrot" and "the clown of the sea", the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) can thank its characteristic look - a black crown and back, grey cheek patches, white underparts, a red and black beak, and orange legs - for its many nicknames.

A vulnerable species

Today, the Atlantic Puffin is listed as a vulnerable species. Apart from Norway, it breeds mainly in Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, the Faroe Islands, and on Shetland and Orkney in the UK.

It spends autumn and winter out at open sea, and then in spring returns to coastal cliffs where it breeds in vast colonies – sometimes containing tens and thousands of birds. Each pair lays only a single egg. After six weeks the chick is fully bred, mostly on small fish, and is ready to go. It doesn’t return to shore for years.

Climate change has had an impact on puffin numbers, however. In Norway, herring is the mainstay of the puffin's diet - so as herring numbers have dwindled, so have puffins.


A special bird

The Atlantic Puffin is a bird that holds a special place in the Norwegian etymology. It even has its own festival – Lundefestivalen on Røst, a small island at the tip of the Lofoten archipelago.

The island is home to the largest number of nesting birds in Norway – around 25% of the country's seabird population – and the largest puffin colony. In earlier times, collecting puffin eggs was an important part of coastal livelihood and traditions in these parts.

Go in search of seabirds with Hurtigruten

While on a Hurtigruten voyage along the Norwegian coast, you can opt to join one of our birdwatching trips including a boat tour to the Gjesværstappan islands, home to one of Norway’s largest and most impressive bird cliffs.