Puffins return early to Farne Islands

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

Puffins have started to return to their breeding grounds on the Farne Islands two weeks early, thanks to the milder spring temperatures.

The National Trust, which looks after the islands, reported sightings of more than 500 puffins there yesterday.

It is thought this could be one of the earliest sightings on record by the national conservation charity.

David Steel, Lead Ranger for the National Trust on the Farnes, said: “It is unusual to see puffins returning to Farne waters so quickly.

“In a normal given year, we would not expect to see them until the last few days of March at the earliest. This is in complete contrast to the previous season where birds did not start returning until early April.

“It is now hoped that this mild spell of weather will be a sign of things to come and the puffins and other seabirds of the Farne islands have a successful year.

“The Farne Islands are open for visitors on April 1, and we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors once again.”

The Farne Islands are home to 40,000 pairs of puffins during spring and summer.


The oldest puffin recorded on the Farnes was 30 years old. However this record has been beaten; the new record is 37 years old. This individual was found in NW Scotland but ringed on the Farnes.

Puffins typically dive for 30 seconds.

Puffins can catch and swallow up to three fish during one dive.

The record number of sandeels found in a puffin’s beak is 61.

Due to an annual moult, most puffins are flightless between January and March.

92 per cent of puffins use the same burrow each year and thus 85 per cent of puffins pair for life.

A puffin flies into the wind on take off and with the wind on approach. So all puffins in a colony fly in the same direction, reducing the chance of collision.

Puffin chicks leave their burrows under the cover of darkness, quickly making their over cliffs and surf to swim as far out to sea as three miles by dawn.