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|McDonaldArt > Prints > Seascapes > Ten Little Puffins|
|Ten Little Puffins||Oil painting of Atlantic Puffins, Newfoundland|
During a recent trip to Newfoundland in mid June, my husband and I took a chartered boat to Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Situated south of St. John's, the islands are home to the largest puffin colony in the western Atlantic.
Puffins, the provincial bird of Newfoundland and Labrador, were smaller than we expected, about 10 inches long. It didn’t take long to understand why such an adorable bird is often called the clown of the ocean or sea parrot.
Their colourful beaks indicated that this was their nesting season. Puffins find their mate at sea, and only spend four to five months each year on land when they make a burrow and raise their little one.
In early May, each mother puffin deposits a single egg at the back of her cozy, three-foot burrow which father puffin prepared, and took care to line with plants, feathers, or seaweed.
After an incubation period of some 45 days, the eggs begin to hatch, which coincided with the timing of our visit!
Parents will spend the next six weeks bringing herring, sprats, sand eels, zooplankton, crustaceans and mollusks back to their tiny offspring. The puffin’s tongue is used to hold the fish against spines in the palate, leaving the bill free to open again to catch more fish. Believe it or not, the fish, which may number up to twelve, are held in the bill with their heads facing in alternate directions!
The chick takes about 49 days to fledge, and then leaves the burrow, unaccompanied, and heads out on its own.
Click below to hear the surprising sounds a puffin makes when in its burrow--somewhat like the buzzing of a chainsaw!
Perhaps a typical burrow conversation might go something like this:
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