Monterey, CA…The new resident is the result of the Aquarium’s first attempt to breed tufted puffins on its premises. The Aquarium’s work is part of an Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan that oversees the health and breeding of over 180 tufted puffins at 14 different organizations with the goal of maintaining a genetically diverse, demographically varied, and biologically sound population.
The female bird hatched on July 19, 2021, from an egg laid on June 6, 2021, by a resident of the Aquarium’s puffin exhibit.
“It has been really fun to watch the parents raise her. From incubating the egg, to feeding her and keeping her safe, they did an excellent job,” said Aquarium Curator of Aviculture Aimee Greenebaum. “She seems curious and likes to investigate new things.”
The puffling currently resides behind the scenes while she is learning how to swim and take food from staff. Her caretakers expect the chick to be placed exhibit after she fledges, the time when a young bird acquires its initial flight feathers and is preparing to leave the nest and care for itself.
In the wild, tufted puffins breed along the Northern Pacific coast from Japan to Russia and California to Alaska, and winter throughout the open waters of the Northern Pacific. The birds nest in burrows or tunnels on inaccessible rocky cliffs and offshore islands. They live in dense, large colonies during the breeding season in the spring and summer. While nesting, the puffin is social — flocks of 10 to 25 birds may leave the colony to gather food for their mates and chicks. When raising its young, the species is known for “bill-loading”, a feeding technique where the parent captures and holds multiple – sometimes up to 20 – small fish, crosswise, in its bill to feed their pufflings. In the winter, after the breeding season, tufted puffins disperse far and wide and become solitary birds. They venture far out to sea, experiencing a range of conditions — from the frigid seas of the Bering Strait to subtropical waters off California.
Discover more about tufted puffins at the Monterey Bay Aquarium website.