Puffins are any of three small species of alcids (auks) in the bird genus Fratercula with a brightly coloured beak during the breeding season.These are pelagic seabirds that feed primarily by diving in the water.
In the air, they beat their wings rapidly (up to 400 times per minute) The English name "puffin" – puffed in the sense of swollen – was originally applied to the fatty, salted meat of young birds of the unrelated Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), formerly known as the "Manks puffin".
Like many auks, puffins eat both fish and zooplankton, but feed their chicks primarily with small marine fish several times a day.
The prey species of the Atlantic puffin include the sandeel, herring and capelin.
Although there no records from the Miocene in the Atlantic, a re-examination of the North Carolina material indicated that the diversity of puffins in the early Pliocene was as great in the Atlantic as it is in the Pacific today.
This diversity was achieved through influxes of puffins from the Pacific; the later loss of species was due to major oceanographic changes in the late Pliocene due to closure of the Panamanian Seaway and the onset of severe glacial cycles in the North Atlantic.