A mating pair of Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) in their nesting burrow on the cliffs of Reynisfjara Beach near Vik, Iceland. Note the burrow mud on the birds' bellies.
The Atlantic puffin is a seabird in the Auk family and the only puffin of four puffin species that is native to the Atlantic Ocean. At sea, it swims on the surface and feeds mainly on small fish which it catches by diving underwater using its wings for propulsion.
Puffins are nicknamed "clowns of the sea" and "sea parrots” given their striking appearance, large colorful bill, waddling gait and behavior.
Atlantic Puffins mate for life and breed in Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Newfoundland and many North Atlantic islands as far south as Maine in the west and Ireland in the east. The total puffin population in Iceland is estimated to be between 8 -10 million birds with 3-4 million breeding pairs.
In 2015, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed the Atlantic puffin’s status from "Least Concern" to "Vulnerable" due to a rapid and ongoing population decline in its European range. Major factors: a) predators including gulls, Arctic skuas and rats; and b) declining numbers of diet sources (i.e. sandeels, etc.) due to warming seas.