New Discoveries About How Puffins Feed Their Chicks

A 2014 feeding study leads to discoveries about how puffins feed their chicks.

The 2014 Dawn to Dark Puffin Feeding Study at Egg Rock

To learn more about the number of feedings per day and numbers of fish fed to puffin chicks, interns at Eastern Egg Rock and Seal Island took turns watching a sample of nests in 2014 from dawn to dusk. At Eastern Egg Rock, six nests were watched continuously beginning at dawn, around 4:40 a.m., and ending at 9 p.m. when it was approaching complete darkness. Together, they watched the burrows for seven 16.5 hour days, totaling 115.5 hours of observation. 

The first feedings of the day began around 5:00 a.m., with a peak of feedings between 5-7 a.m. Feedings slowed during late morning and afternoon, with a second peak of feeding between 6-8 p.m.

When Do Puffin Parents Feed their Chick?

Percent of Puffin Chick Feedings by Time of Day Graph
Puffins fed their chicks throughout the day with a peak of feedings at dawn and another at dusk.

How Often Do Puffin Parents Feed their Chick?

Number of Atlantic Puffin Pairs at Eastern Egg Rock 1981 to 2014
Puffin parents fed their chicks more meals as they matured until they were about a month old. One pair fed its chick 26 meals in one day. The number of feedings decreased rapidly during the last ten days in the burrow.

How Much Food Does it Take to Feed a Puffin Chick?

At Eastern Egg Rock in 2014, a study of six puffin chicks found that chicks were fed  an average of five feedings per day during their first week, with feedings increasing to a peak of about 13 feedings per day during their fourth week. Feedings per day dropped during the fifth week to about 8 feedings per day and only an occasional feeding was observed thereafter. Most chicks fledged by 42 days of age. Over the course of the six week chick rearing period, the parent puffins delivered an average of about 2,500 fish per chick in the following proportion: 1,900 White Hake, 250 Sebastes, sp., 150 Atlantic Herring and 75 Sand Lance. In total, it took about 2.25 pounds of fish to raise each chick. 

Learn about birds and take action