Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Horned Puffin

The horned puffin is a spectacular looking bird that I was thrilled to see and photograph. Our best views of them were offshore of Gull Island, three miles from the Homer Spit in Kachemak Bay, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. We also saw them during a small boat cruise into Kenai Fjord National Park out of Seward, Alaska. 
These three puffins are on a large rock jutting out of the ocean near Resurrection Bay outside Seward. The orange-red feet are very apparent. 
This horned puffin was off Gull Island. The reflections in some of the pictures are fun. I understand sea water does not reflect, which indicates how much glacial melt water is in this water just off the Kenai Peninsula which is full of glaciers. 
We saw them during breeding season when they have a dramatically changed appearance. During breeding season: the normally black bill enlarges to a toucan-like bill that is yellow with a red tip; the grayish-black face turns stark white; a small fleshy "horn" above its eye becomes more pronounced; the eye turns red; the feet yellow feet turn reddish-orange and the back feathers turn darker. The article here has a photo of one during the winter. It does not look like the same bird.  The stark white face against the black feathers and the black horn as well as the black eye-stripe reminded me of a Japanese Geisha. 
This head-on view shows a reddish patch at the mouth-line of the bill which appears to be separate from the bill. This patch in other pictures I've seen has been yellow on other puffins. This also gives a good illustration of the fleshy horn jutting up from the eye. 
I loved seeing them struggle to take-off in flight. 
The webbed wing is apparent in this photo. It has a reddish tint that is even more apparent in other pictures I have. 
Here the puffin starts to emerge out of the water.
Here it is free of the water except for its legs, leaving little splashes in its wake. 
The horned puffin feeds primarily on fish and it is a tremendous under-water swimmer. Like the tufted puffin, it has short, stocky wings that appear to be webbed to aid under-water swimming, which makes flight more difficult for them. They have to beat their wings constantly and cannot glide. 
I love this double/triple reflection of the head. 


  1. These puffins look like creations of Disney or Pixar studios.

  2. These puffins look like creations of Disney or Pixar studios.

  3. Wow, you have some really spectacular photos. For some reason, I always related puffins with penguins. Maybe it's because they look more like penguins during the non-breeding season. Chris is right--they look like animation material!