Long before I left home in June to visit Alaska this summer I knew that the birds I most wanted to see there were puffins. This was the main reason why I traveled way out into the Bering Sea to the Pribilof Islands where they nest.
I had seen many photographs of puffins and couldn’t believe that any birds could be that cute. I just had to see and photograph them for myself.
Actually, even before going to the Pribilofs, I got glimpses of puffins when I took cruises through Kenai Fjords National Park and Kachemak Bay two or three weeks earlier. But all the puffins I saw there were sitting on the ocean at a distance.
Puffins belong to the alcidae, or auk, family of seabirds. While we call three species puffins, we know now that four of them exist. Three of them live in the North Pacific Ocean, while the East has only Atlantic puffins in the North Atlantic Ocean. Here in the West we have tufted puffins and horned puffins — and rhinoceros auklets, which don’t look at all like puffins, but anatomically still are puffins. I saw them in Kenai Fjords.
Click on the picture above to enlarge
If rhinoceros auklets look strange, horned puffins don’t even look real.