Iceland has the largest puffin population in the world and the children of Vestmannaeyjar work diligently to ensure each new generation’s survival.


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Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) are home to over a million Atlantic puffins in the summer. They come in from the Arctic seas between late April and mid-August to nest and rear their young.

The islands are located just off of Iceland’s South Coast and it’s one of the best places in the country to spot a puffin. The birds like to burrow into cliffs to lay their eggs inside.

A puffin in Iceland.

As these eggs hatch, tiny little pufflings make their way into the world. That’s right, a baby puffin is called a puffling. Just when you thought puffins couldn’t get any cuter. They are born fluffy and grey and missing the bright colours that will, in time, come to characterise their ‘puffin-ness’.

Growing up isn’t so easy for the young pufflings. As they reach a sort of adolescent stage in their development, they start to make moves to leave the nest and learn how to fly. Unfortunately, in their first attempts, they’re generally not very good at it.

Photo credit: IG @alex_stead

Every August and September, the pufflings wind up getting confused by the lights of the town and instead of making their way out to sea, they end up landing in the streets, frightened and threatened by cars and cats. You know, just your average misguided teenager.

The children of Vestmanneyjar have a charming tradition of helping the young puffins get back to their rightful place at sea. In the evenings, troupes of children will patrol the streets, looking for the bewildered birds. They pick them up, put them in a box, and keep them safe through the night.

The next day, they will return the birds to the sea by throwing them high up into the air in the direction of the water. The young birds are still not the most confident in the art of flying so the children have to throw them quite hard as you can see in the above video.

Rescuing puffins is a quintessential part of childhood on the Westman Islands and it’s positively adorable.

You can meet a puffin for yourself at the newly opened Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary Visitor Centre. The sanctuary will soon be home to two adopted beluga whales from China and in the future hopes to save more whales and dolphins from unacceptable conditions.


Have you ever seen a puffin in the flesh? Feel free to share any photos you might have on our Facebook Feature Group. Please be sure to leave any comments or questions in the Facebook box below.

About The Author

Writer / Content Editor

Katrín was born in Iceland, but spent most of her childhood in London. She studied Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, attending digs in Romania and Cyprus. Katrín is part of the Reykjavík stand-up scene and regularly performs in English. She's also an amateur juggler.

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