The U.S. Postal Service celebrates the tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata), an unmistakable bird named for the striking tufts of long, yellow feathers that grow from the sides of its head during breeding season, by issuing a stamp.
Looking a bit like a punk rock haircut, the tufts accent the bold coloring of the bird’s black body, white facial mask, and bright orange bill and webbed feet.
Puffins, also known as sea parrots for their large bills, are diving birds in the auk family. The tufted puffin is the largest of the three puffin species, standing roughly 15 inches tall.
Found on the open ocean, islands, and coastal areas of the North Pacific, the tufted puffin’s true home is the sea, as it hunts underwater and spends most of its life far from land.
The birds have adapted to an unusually broad range of ocean habitats, raising their young anywhere from southern California to arctic Alaska. In the United States, tufted puffins can be also found in Oregon and Washington.
Tufted Puffins are around 35 cm (15 in) in length with a similar wingspan and weigh about three quarters of a kilogram (1.6 lbs). Birds from the western Pacific population are somewhat larger than those from the eastern Pacific, and male birds tend to be slightly larger than females.
They are mostly black with a white facial patch, and, typical of other puffin species, feature a very thick bill which is mostly red with some yellow and occasionally green markings. Their most distinctive feature and namesake are the yellow tufts that appear annually on birds of both sexes as the summer reproductive season approaches.
Their feet become bright red and their face also becomes bright white in the summer. During the feeding season, the tufts moult off and the plumage, beak and legs lose much of their lustre.
Title: Tufted Puffin
Date of Issue: 23 January 2013