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Tufted Puffin Chicks Hatched

There’s some extra excitement in the Rocky Shores seabird habitat at the zoo: Five tufted puffin chicks, known as pufflings, hatched recently!

After pufflings hatch, they stay in a nest while their parents take turns bringing food. Eventually, they “fledge” or leave their burrows and join the other puffins in the habitat, and the parents stop feeding them. Keepers then train each bird to hand-feed from them.

“Hand-feeding all the puffins allows us to closely monitor individual birds and ensure they receive vitamins and any needed medications,” said keeper Noelle. Puffling at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Tufted puffins generally mate for life and raise one chick at a time. Couples share parenting duties, like nest building, egg incubation, and feeding their chick. Guests may see puffins gathering fish to bring to the pufflings.

“Puffin chicks grow quickly during their time in their burrows,” explained Noelle. “In the wild, once they leave the burrow, they go alone to sea for two years and care for themselves.”

All the pufflings are expected to have fledged by the end of September. Guests can currently see a few pufflings out with the rest of the colony. They are already nearly the same size as the adults but can be identified by their darker grey bills and feet. Adult puffins have orange bills and feet. 

In the wild, tufted puffins live from Alaska to California and northern Asia. Puffins are not a threatened species, but some are declining as they face threats of oil spills, ocean pollution, and overfishing of the small fish that make up their diet. Guests can help all sea animals by choosing sustainable seafood and reducing plastic use.

The tufted puffins share a habitat at the zoo with horned puffins and common murres. Learn about all the zoo’s seabirds here.