The Atlantic Puffin – Their Story

As we welcome the Puffins back to the Cliffs of Moher for the new season, we thought it would be a great opportunity to speak with our very own resident Puffin, Paddy, and ask him to explain what the life of a Puffin entails. Paddy was more than happy to take part in the interview, despite being busy promoting Doolin2Aran Ferries for the new season.

I would usually start by asking what made a person choose this path in life, but Paddy was born a Puffin, so he didn’t really have a choice, so I asked Paddy about his early life…

“Well, I was born here at the Cliffs of Moher, on Goat Island, just below O’Briens Tower. It is a busy place in the height of the Summer, the last I heard there was over 7000 of us at the Cliffs last year, along with another 25000 other birds. The other birds at the Cliffs give us a bit of stick for our nests, calling us ‘rabbits’ just because we dig burrows into the grassy ledges along the Cliffs, but you know Irish Summers as well as I do and we get our share of rain, and while I am nice and dry in my burrow, they can be outside laughing in the rain for as long as they want”.

“Paddy, can you tell me what a typical day in the life of a Puffin involves?”

“I can, but depending on the time of year, the days are very different. The majority of my life is spent out at sea, sitting in the Atlantic Ocean, waiting for the nesting season to begin once again. People have a very hard time understanding why we do it, just go out and sit there, but don’t think I am going to tell you why, just take it as something that we do.
Our nesting season is from early May to the end of July, of course you get some early arrivals and late departures, but the most of us arrive in this time period. Did I ever mention that we pair for life, once you find that special bird, that’s it. Each pair of Puffins will lay one egg and it is cared for by both parents for about 6 weeks until it hatches, this is when the busiest time of year arrives, fishing season.
It is not easy trying to keep a small Puffin fed, it is a constant job, both parents taking turns to go get food. Luckily at the Cliffs of Moher fish is plentiful and there is plenty of Sprat (small fish which all of the birds at the Cliffs of Moher feed on) to be found both close in and out far from the Cliffs. Also, we Puffins are talented swimmers; we can dive down to 60 metres and stay below the surface for over 2 minutes, so we always catch something when we go out. This is the busiest time of year but it is all worth it when you see the young chick shed his fluffy brownish feathers and take the sky for the first time”.

I then took the brave step of asking Paddy his age, because all Puffins look the same in my eyes.

“Some people might say you are taking a chance with that question” he said “but we go way back, your family and mine, so I will tell you. I will start of by saying this, my parents told me of the time when one of Doolin2Aran Ferries’ directors, PJ Garrihy, used to fish down underneath the Cliffs of Moher. As long as they could remember he was there, and they lived well into their 20’s both of them. I can see by the look on your face that you were not expecting to hear that we live that long but we do. A 20 year old Puffin is not uncommon and some have been known to live into their 30’s. I won’t tell you my exact age but I still have to reach 10”.

Finally I asked Paddy if he enjoyed working with us here at Doolin2Aran Ferries.

“What’s not to enjoy? The crew on the boats and the staff in the offices are always nice and all the birds love to see the boats and the tourists coming down to the Cliffs of Moher, it gives them a chance to show off for the crowd. As for me, I get to travel with work, promoting the company all over the place, on the Aran Islands, around the Burren, down in Lahich, anywhere I can really.”