Wildlife Holiday News

Puffin-watching in the UK

Alison Steel
By Alison Steel
Operations Manager
18th February 2020
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Atlantic Puffins are one of those characterful birds that many people love to watch, and we are often asked which of our UK tours they can be seen on. Nicknamed ‘Sea Parrots’ or ‘Clowns of the Sea’ due to their colourful face markings, these small seabirds are only around 25cm (9.5 inches) high and the smallest of the four puffin species.

They spend their winters at sea and come to shore in the spring, around April or May, to start preparing their burrows. During this time their bills take on the brilliant orange/red colour (it will turn dull grey again by the following winter). Most puffins are faithful to their partner, and can remain together for their entire 20-year life span. For the next couple of months each pair will incubate and rear their chicks in an underground burrow, making frequent fishing forays to return with a beakful of sand eels. On average, they flap their wings 400 times a minute when in flight, reaching up to 52mph (88kmh) in speed and can swim to depths of around 60m (195ft). By late July or early August the chicks (also known as pufflings) have fledged and the adults are heading back out to sea.

The best tours for seeing puffins include:

The Yorkshire Coast & Moors: Bempton cliffs are one of the best UK mainland sites for seeing puffins. They use the tops of the cliffs to burrow into and can be seen well from the cliff-top path.

Northumberland & the Farne Islands: Puffins nest on the Farne Islands and a boat trip allows you to get amongst the action, holding your breath as the returning puffins run the gauntlet of gulls to reach their burrows with their cargo of food.

Magic of Mull and Wild Scotland in Spring: both tours include a visit to the Treshnish Islands off the west coast of Mull, where there are excellent opportunities for viewing these charismatic birds.

Ardnamurchan - Wild Scotland in Spring

An 8-day holiday focusing on the birds and mammals of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula...

8 days £1,295 land only

The Yorkshire Coast & Moors

A 4-day birdwatching holiday exploring the Yorkshire coast and North Yorkshire M...

4 days £595 land only

Northumberland & the Farne Islands

A 6-day exploration of Northumberland's spectacular coast, offshore islands and...

6 days £945 land only

Other tours where there is some likelihood of seeing Puffins include:

Mull’s Otters & Eagles: this tour also visits the Treshnish Islands and some early returning puffins may possibly be seen.

Northumberland – Seabirds & Castles (Wildlife Photography): this tour visits the Farne Islands where there are lots of nesting pairs of puffins.

Speyside in Spring: a visit to Troup Head offers up a good opportunity to watch for puffins.

In addition, Pembrokeshire in Early Summer, The Scottish Hebrides by Land & Sea, Whales & Dolphins of the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda & the Hebrides – Islands on the Edge of the Atlantic, North Devon – Wildflowers, Butterflies & Seabirds, The Burren, The Best of Scotland and Shetland’s Wildlife are other tours where it’s possible to see puffins. Please click on the links to find details of these UK tours.

Speyside in Spring

An exciting and varied 7-day holiday to Speyside in search of the iconic wildlif...

7 days £995 land only

Mull's Otters & Eagles - A Photography Tour

A 6 day Wildlife Photography holiday focusing on the playful otters and majestic...

6 days £1,695 land only

The Magic Of Mull

A 7-day exploration of Mull, in the Inner Hebrides, a natural history paradise b...

7 days £1,350 land only