Best time to travel to England

Puffins on the Farne Islands in England

See these amazing birds on the northeast coast of England!

Best time: April–mid-July

Puffins on the Farne Islands
Puffins on the Farne Islands
Puffins on the Farne Islands

Known as sea parrots because of their colorful beaks, puffins fly to the Farne Islands in England every year to nest in the spring as here they can find a sufficient amount of food. There are not so many terrestrial predators and good protection for nesting on these islands.

Puffins are thick and short-winged creatures but they fly well. They can flap their wings up to 400 times per minute and are able to reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. On the ground, they move holding their body almost vertically in quite an amusing fashion. Puffins are also great swimmers and divers. This is one of the few birds that can dig burrows as well.

Puffins lay one egg a year, mating with the same partner. Both parents in turn incubate this egg, and then, in the same way, bring the chick food. Every year they return to the same place. The life expectancy of these birds is often 20 years or more.

Puffins come back to the Farnes to breed every year in early April and stay in the area until mid- to late July. The peak breeding season usually falls in May and June, so it is the best time to take a tour to the islands.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit the Farne Islands to see puffins?

If tourists want to witness the Farne Island puffins, they should schedule a visit from April to mid-July, the number of months when these birds arrive and nest in the area. Puffins' breeding period peaks in May and June, and at this time, visitors would experience 'puffling season' where the birds take their fitted tuxedo-like form before they migrate back to the ocean. Show more

Where can visitors take a tour to see puffins on the Farne Islands?

There is an option for visitors to take a boat tour around the Farne Islands to see puffins from Seahouses. These tours, which take about 1-2 hours, provide a chance to witness puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, and other bird species while sailing around the islands. The National Trust collaborates with local operators to provide these boat trips during peak season. Show more

How fast can puffins fly?

Despite having bulky bodies, puffins are capable flyers, flapping their wings up to 400 times per minute, and reaching speeds of up to 55 mph in a straight dive. Puffins usually fly within 20 to 30 mph speeds while traveling between their nesting burrows and the ocean, where they catch sand eels and small fish to feed their offspring. They are efficient flyers, especially when skimming along the water's surface. Show more

Do puffins mate for life?

Puffins bond for life, are faithful partners to their mates, and always return to the same burrow each year, laying up to one egg annually. Both parents take turns incubating the egg for about 45 days, and after it hatches, alternate feeding the chick until it's mature enough to leave the nest. The parents then migrate back to the ocean, abandoning their burrow, and reconnect with the same mate in subsequent breeding seasons. Show more

How long do puffins usually live?

Puffins tend to live relatively longer amongst seabirds, averaging between 20-25 years but can survive beyond 30 years. Puffins reproduce when they become around five years old and spend most of their lives in the ocean, returning yearly to the same burrow for breeding, and occasionally, over several years. They have a specific preference for easy-to-excavate cliffs ideal for burrows. Show more

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