Puffins in Iceland are awesome!

by Wildlife Guide Auður

Puffins in Iceland are, in our opinion, the cutest birds in the world. Puffins are one of the most common birds in Iceland during their breeding season, although they are considered an endangered species worldwide. They can be found all over Iceland and just outside Reykjavik; we even have an island named Puffin Island. The puffin generally lives on the open ocean, only setting foot on land during mating and puffling season. Check out our Instagram for some lovely pics of this cute bird!

Clowns of the sea

It’s their most famous attribute, the puffins’ colorful kind of clownish look. But did you know puffins change colors over the year? During the breeding season, they are at their most colorful with beaks in red, orange, yellow, and black. The beak’s bright hues play a crucial role in attracting mates. After the mating season, they start to molt, the beak’s color becomes duller, and the white feathers turn gray. 

The puffin goes by many nicknames like clowns of the sea and sea parrots in English. A common Icelandic nickname for the puffin is Prófastur which means preacher referring to the fact that their colorful beaks look like a pastor’s gown.

Puffins in Iceland in full colour
Puffin in full colors

The olympian of birds

The puffin is a small bird by the standards of its family, the auk family. Despite being small, only about 25-29 cm (10-11.5 inches) and 500 grams (1 lb), the puffins can soar in the sky at 88 km/h (55 mph) and dive 60 meters (200 feet) for 1.5 minutes. Talk about an all-rounded athlete. Their distinctive wings are adapted for both underwater swimming and agile aerial maneuvers, allowing them to cover long distances in search of food and navigate with precision.

They also live very long lives compared to other birds. The most extended life a puffin has lived we humans have recorded was 38 years old! The average puffin lives about 20-25 years. They can also carry around 20 fish in their beak at a time! 

Puffins touching beaks
A puffin couple getting ready for their puffling

When can I see puffins in Iceland?

The best time to see puffins in Iceland is during the summer months, typically from mid-May to early August. These months mark the puffin breeding season, and they gather in large numbers on coastal cliffs and islands around Iceland.

During this period, puffins engage in courtship displays, nest building, and rearing their chicks, offering fantastic opportunities for observation. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland and wish to witness these charismatic birds in their natural habitat, the summer season provides the optimal conditions for puffin sightings. Keep in mind that specific timing can vary, so it’s always a good idea to check with local guides or wildlife experts for the latest information on puffin activity in different regions of Iceland. Overall, you can see puffins from late April to early September although the highest chance is May to August.

Seeing puffins with Sea trips

Now that you know all about puffins in Iceland, it’s time to go out and see one for yourself. On our RIB speedboat tours, you can get up close and personal with the puffin colonies near the Reykjavik islands. You can book a RIB puffins tour HERE! If the speedboat is not your style, why not opt for our Whale watching tour by yacht, where you can see both puffins and whales combined! Our expert guides will be happy to show you and tell you all about the marine and bird life in Faxaflói bay, and we look forward to meeting you! 


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