Tufted puffins gather in colonies on islands and headlands during spring and summer to breed and rear young. Breeding extends from mid-April to early September in Washington, and nesting occurs in burrows where a single egg is laid.
Incubation is performed by both members of the breeding pair and usually lasts between 43 and 46 days. Rates of chick growth and survival depend on prey availability and quality. Nesting adults forage up to 38 miles from their colonies to catch prey for nestlings. Chicks are fully independent upon fledging.
The species feeds on fishes, crustaceans, and cephalopods, which are caught underwater.
Tufted puffins at colonies experience predation from bald eagles and other predators, and kleptoparasitism by gulls. Puffins winter alone or in small groups at sea.
Description and Range
Distribution and abundance
In Washington, breeding occurs on islands along the northern outer coast and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The population has been declining since at least the 1980s, with minimum population estimates falling from 23,342 birds in 1978-1982 to 2,958 birds in 2009, and only 19 of 44 historical breeding sites remaining occupied.
Nearly all breeding now occurs along the outer coast. The species is very rare during the winter months.
Nesting takes place on isolated offshore islands and inaccessible headlands. Preferred nesting habitat includes grassy slopes, bluffs, and plateaus with soil deep enough for burrowing in locations free of introduced predators and human disturbance. Rocky areas and thickets are sometimes used for nesting.
Foraging occurs from nearshore waters to open sea during the breeding season. Tufted puffins are pelagic during the non-breeding season.