Horned puffin

(Fratercula corniculata)




Facts about this animal

Horned puffins are very social birds, nesting in large colonies, and feeding together in flocks. Graceful underwater and agile on land, they have a bit of trouble getting airborne. They will either run along the surface of the water in order to get up enough speed to take flight, or will dive off a cliff.

During winter, the puffins spend several months at sea. In spring they return to their breeding colonies. Courtship rituals include visual displays such as flapping of the wings, jerking of the head, and "billing" or rubbing the bills together. A puffin pair builds their nest between the rocks of a cliff, and will use the same nest for several years. The nest is built by the male and is made of feather, leaves, and grass, and one single egg is laid there. The egg is incubated by both, male and female, and both parents will feed and care for the chick, taking turns so that one parent can stay behind to keep the chick warm. After 5 days both parents can leave to forage for fish, since the young puffin can keep warm on its own. It will stay in the nest and wait for its parents to return with fish for it to eat. After 50 days the young puffin will leave its nest. It will fly away from the island to spend the next 3-4 years out on the ocean, but when mature enough to breed it will return to the same breeding colony it was hatched in.

The horned puffin feeds mainly on fish and zooplankton, but will also take squid.

Did you know?
that puffins may dive deeper than 24 m to catch fish? Their bills have specialized sharp hooks that help to hold fish. One puffin was seen holding 62 fish in its bill at one time.


Class AVES
Suborder ALCAE
Name (Scientific) Fratercula corniculata
Name (English) Horned puffin
Name (French) Macareux cornu
Name (German) Hornlund
Name (Spanish) Frailecillo
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



Range North Pacific coast and islands of Canada, Japan, Russian Federation, and United States. Roams further south during non-breeding season.
Habitat During the breeding season coasts, during the non-breeding season pelagic.
Wild population The global population is estimated to be in the order of 800,000 individuals.
Zoo population 66 in 5 institutions reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Horned puffin


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 13 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Why do zoos keep this animal

Horned puffins are not a threatened species. Zoos keep them for educational purposes and as an ambassador species for marine and coastal conservation.