Penguin enthusiasts might be surprised to find that their favorite isn't the only adorable black-and-white polar bird out there. On the other side of the planet, you can find the Atlantic puffin. These cute, fun and fascinating creatures make their homes all along the North Atlantic coast, but over 60 percent nest in Iceland. Here are four fun facts about these small, precious creatures:
1. 'Puffin,' as in puff
Puffins get their name from their puffed-up appearance. Puffins are fairly small - they're less than a foot tall, and weight just a little more than a pound. Despite their small size, however, their thick, downy feathers make them incredibly round. As a result, puffins look like soft, round balls. This effect becomes even more dramatic when two puffins fight. In an attempt to look bigger and more intimidating, puffins raise their feathers. While this might make them look scary to other puffins, it just makes them cuter to humans.
2. Skilled hunters
Puffins mainly eat fish, although they will eat crustaceans if need be. Like most sea birds, puffins hunt for their prey by diving. They can stay underwater for up to a minute searching for fish, but usually only spend 20-30 seconds in the water at a time. Puffins are able to carry an impressive number of fish in their beaks at once - they usually catch around 10 or so per hunt, but have been known to carry more. According to Project Puffin, the record for fish held at once was 62.
Puffins don't mate for life exclusively, but they are remarkably monogamous for the animal world. They rarely change mates, and couples usually go back to the same place to nest year after year. Before they nest, they perform a mating ceremony where they rub their beaks together. The puffins make their nest, and the female lays a single egg. The male and female take turns caring for the egg and, once it hatches, the baby.
4. Cozy homes
Puffins make incredibly cozy homes for their newborn chicks. They use their beaks and feet to dig long, curved passageways. Usually, these burrows are about 3 feet long. They lay their egg at the very end of the tunnel, and have a bathroom area at the first bend. This allows the baby chick to learn how to relieve itself while keeping itself and its space clean. Since dirty feathers can ruin a puffin's waterproofing, it's vital the chick learns how to stay neat. Once the baby is ready, it heads out to sea.