With its striking colour-scheme, rolling walk and tragic-comic expression, the puffin is arguably the world’s most popular seabird. Scotland is the capital of British and Irish puffindom. Hundreds of thousands breed here, many concentrated in a few colonies in the far west and north, but with watchable groups in quite a few other places.
What to look for
There’s no mistaking an adult puffin in summer, with its tangerine footwear, dapper, black-and-white body feathers and multi-coloured, parrot-like bill. Puffins are bulky (to help them dive) so usually fly with a fast, whirring movement, working hard to stay aloft.
A puffin can load many fish into its beak thanks to backward-pointing spines on the roof of its mouth. The world record load (held by a bird in northern Norway) is more than 60 small fish - a number nearly matched by a Scottish puffin.
When and where to see
Puffins come ashore in Scotland from late April (some may be later in the north and west) until mid-August. July is the peak month to see adults with beak-loads of fish coming in to feed chicks. Some of the best places to see them are the Treshnish Isles off Mull, Handa in west Sutherland, Hoy in Orkney, Noss and Hermaness in Shetland, the Isle of May in Fife and the Farne Islands just across the border in Northumberland.
For more information see the RSPB's puffin page.