puffin defined in 1930 yearpuffin - Puffin;
puffin - Crown, collar, and upper parts black, all the rest white; bill, bluish at the base, yellow in the middle, bright red at the tip; legs and feet orange-red. Length, twelve inches.
Among British birds, whether sea or land, the puffin is the most singular in appearance - a small auk, compact in build, conspicuous in black and white plumage, broad collar, white, owlish face, and great beak, short and adze-shaped, but massive as a toucan's. The brilliant colours of this beak, too - red with orange bars - give it a curious resemblance to the enormous organ of the tropical bird. One may look at the puffin almost daily, as he stands on the rocks, always with something of surprise at his strikingly handsome yet grotesque appearance. The fanciful idea suggests itself that the bird is a masquerader; that the visible, brilliantly coloured beak has been artificially made, and put on over the natural beak, just as in the case of a human masquerader a large, gaily coloured, artificial nose is sometimes placed over the natural organ. And the puffin's beak is, in fact, something of a mask, or superimposed ornament; and after the breeding season its surface peels off in horny plates, and is shed like the deciduous bark of certain trees. The bird's break in winter is moderate in size and dull-coloured.
The puffin is a spring visitor to our coasts, and after rearing their young the birds scatter over the sea and journey southwards. The puffins found on the east coasts of England and Scotland during the winter months are probably migrants from more northern latitudes. Puffins are found in summer in most localities on our coasts where razorbills and guillemots collect; on the south coast they are rare, but increase as we go north, until at St. Kilda they are found gathered in incalculable numbers. As a cliff-breeder the puffin deposits its egg in a hole or cranny in the rocks like the razorbill, but never on an exposed ledge, as the guillemot always, and the razorbill sometimes, does. Sometimes they take forcible possession of rabbit-burrows among sandhills, driving the owners out; but they prefer making their own burrows in a soft peaty soil, such as they find at St. Kilda and in many other localities. In March or April they return from their wanderings on the sea and begin the great business of the year. "Where they are in large numbers and make their burrows near each other the soft soil is so undermined by them that it is difficult to walk over the ground without breaking through the turf and sinking almost knee-deep in their holes at every few steps. When engaged in digging the birds are so intent on their work that they may be approached very closely, and sometimes even taken with the hand. The burrow is three or four feet in length, sometimes more, and at the extremity a single egg is laid, oval in form, large for the bird's size, and white, faintly spotted and streaked with grey. The young bird is covered with black down, and has a comparatively small beak, of a dark colour. He is a squat, lumpish creature, owlish in appearance. When fishing to supply its young the parent puffin has the curious habit and faculty of keeping the small fishes it catches in its beak, where they may be seen as the bird swims on the sea, their tails and a portion of their bodies protruding at the sides of the beak and mouth. How it manages to hold several little fishes in this way and go on diving and catching others is a puzzle. On arriving at the burrow the fishes are placed on the floor inside, or at the entrance, where the young bird sits waiting for its parent, and are then picked up one by one and put into the open, hungry mouth.
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