Puffins are one of the most distinctive sea birds in coastal Alaska. Both varieties found in Alaska – the tufted puffin and the horned puffin – feature bright-orange beaks and webbed feet with black-and-white coloring. Early sailors called them “sea parrots” because of this color scheme. Puffins are built for swimming underwater rather than for flying, and at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, a mutli-level seabird display allows visitors to watch puffins and other sea birds dive to the bottom of the enclosure for food. When they dive, puffins flap their wings through the water, appearing to fly. After they scoop the food off the bottom, they simply point their beaks toward the surface and slide up through the water.

Where to find them:

Puffins are found in Southeast, Southcentral and Southwest Alaska along the coast.

When to come:

Puffins spend May through September in rookeries along the coast, nesting in dirt burrows or in notches in the rocky coast. Here, each breeding pair rears one baby per season, tending the egg until around July, then carefully guarding the delicate baby until fall, when it is capable of feeding itself. Puffins tend to spend the winter at sea in the North Pacific Ocean.