First record of horned puffin in the North Atlantic and tufted puffin in High Arctic Greenland

  • Kurt K. Burnham High Arctic Institute, Orion, IL, USA
  • Jennifer L. Burnham Department of Geography, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL, USA
  • Jeff A. Johnson Department of Biological Sciences, Institute of Applied Sciences, University of North Texas, Denton, TX, USA
  • Bridger W. Konkel High Arctic Institute, Orion, IL, USA
  • Jack Stephens High Arctic Institute, Orion, IL, USA
  • Hannah Badgett High Arctic Institute, Orion, IL, USA
Keywords: Transarctic movement, sea ice, North-west Passage, range shift, Fratercula corniculate, Fratercula cirrhata


An accelerating decrease in summer sea-ice extent in the Arctic Ocean and Canadian Arctic Archipelago (North-west Passage) is predicted to increase the movement of species between the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans. Here we report observations of two Subarctic North Pacific puffin species in the North Atlantic near the coast of north-west Greenland. We observed a horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata) repeatedly during the summer months of 2002–06 and 2013–19 and a single tufted puffin (F. cirrhata) in 2019. While single tufted puffins have been observed a few times in the North Atlantic, this is the first record of a horned puffin in the North Atlantic, and the first record for both horned and tufted puffins in north-west Greenland. In 2019, both puffin species were observed simultaneously at an Atlantic puffin (F. arctica) colony.


Download data is not yet available.


Bevier L.R. 2017. Sixth report of the Maine bird record committee. Bird Observer 45, 96–104.

Boé J., Hall A. & Qu X. 2009. September sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean projected to vanish by 2100. Nature Geoscience 2, 341–343, doi: 10.1038/ngeo467.

Boertmann D.A., Mosbech A., Falk K. & Kampp K. 1996. Seabird colonies in western Greenland (60°–79°30´ N. lat). NERI Technical Report 170. Copenhagen: National Environmental Research Institute.

Brommer J.E., Lehikoinen A. & Valkama J. 2012. The breeding ranges of central European and Arctic bird species move poleward. PLoS One 7, e43648, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043648.

Burnham K.K., Burnham W.A., Newton I., Johnson J.A. & Gosler A. 2012. The history and range expansion of peregrine falcons in the Thule area, northwest Greenland. Monographs on Greenland 353. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.

Burnham K.K., Sinnett D.R., Johnson J.A., Burnham J.L., Baroch J.A. & Konkel B.W. 2014. New species records and changes in abundance of waterfowl in northwest Greenland. Polar Biology 37, 1289–1300, doi: 10.1007/s00300-014-1520-z.

Clairbaux M., Fort J., Mathewson P., Porter W., Strøm H. & Grémillet D. 2019. Climate change could overturn bird migration: transarctic fights and high-latitude residency in a sea ice free Arctic. Scientific Reports 9, article no. 17767, doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-54228-5.

Divoky G. 2011. Black guillemots in a melting Arctic: responding to shifts in prey, competitors, and predators. In R.T. Watson et al. (eds.): Gyrfalcons and ptarmigan in a changing world. Vol. 1. Pp. 125–130. Boise, ID: The Peregrine Fund.

Divoky G.J. 1982. The occurrence and behavior of non-breeding horned puffins at black guillemot colonies in northern Alaska. Wilson Bulletin 94, 356–358.

Divoky G.J., Lukacs P.M. & Druckenmiller M.L. 2015. Effects of recent decreases in Arctic sea ice on an ice-associated marine bird. Progress in Oceanography 136, 151–161, doi: 10.1016/j.pocean.2015.05.010.

Dunn P.O. & Møller A.P. 2019. Effects of climate change on birds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

eBird 2020. eBird: an online database of bird distribution and abundance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Accessed on the internet at on 24 January 2020.

Fayet A.L., Freeman R., Anker-Nilssen T., Diamond A., Erikstad K.E., Fifield D., Fitzsimmons M.G., Hansen E.S., Harris M.P., Jessopp M., Kouwenberg A.L., Kress S., Mowat S., Perins C.M., Petersen A., Petersen I.K., Rejertsen T.K., Robertson G.J., Shannon P., Sigurðsson I.A., Shoji A., Wanless S. & Guilford T. 2017. Ocean-wide drivers of migration strategies and their influence on population breeding performance in a declining seabird. Current Biology 27, 3871–3878, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.11.009.

Gaston A.J. & Jones I.L. 1998. The auks. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gaston A.J. & Woo K. 2008. Razorbills (Alca torda) follow Subarctic prey into the Canadian Arctic: colonization results from climate change? Auk 125, 939–942, doi: 10.1525/auk.2008.07195.

Gjerdrum C. & Fifield D. 2019. CWS-EC Eastern Canada Seabirds at Sea (ECSAS). Version 5 (2019-Feb). Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, NS, Canada. Ocean Biogeographic Information System, Canada Digital Collections. Accessed on the internet at on 8 April 2020.

Haraldsson M. 1995. The tufted puffin Fratercula cirrhata in the mouth of the Lagan River 1 and 8 June 1994. Vår Fågelvärld (Supplement) 22, 152–153.

Hitch A.T. & Leberg P.L. 2007. Breeding distributions of North American bird species moving north as a result of climate change. Conservation Biology 21, 534–539, doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00609.x.

Kelly B., Whiteley A. & Tallmon D. 2010. The Arctic melting pot. Nature 568, 891,

Kharitonov S.P. 1999. The first record of the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) in the Pacific, and routes of alcid vagrancy between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Bulletin of the North-Eastern Research Center of FEB RAS 3, 105–107.

Kristensen A.B., Frich A.S., Ortvad T.E. & Schwalbe M. 2009. Sjældne fugle i Danmark og Grønland i 2009. (Rare birds in Denmark and Greenland in 2009. With English summary.) In J. Staarup & P. Lange (eds.): Fugleåret 2009. (Bird yearbook 2009.) Pp. 131–151. Copenhagen: Danish Ornithological Society.

Kumar S., Stecher G., Suleski M. & Hedges S.B. 2017. Time-Tree: a resource for timelines, timetrees, and divergence times. Molecular Biology and Evolution 34, 1812–1819, doi: 10.1093/molbev/msx116.

McKeon C.S., Weber M.X., Alter S.E., Seavy N.E., Crandall E.D., Barshis, D.J., Fechter-Leggett E.D. & Oleson K.L.L. 2016. Melting barriers to faunal exchange across ocean basins. Global Change Biology 22, 465–473, doi: 10.1111/gcb.13116.

Nettleship D.N. 1996. Family Alcidae (auks). In J. del Hoyo et al. (eds.): Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 3. Pp. 678–722. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Notz D. & Stroeve J. 2018. The trajectory towards a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean. Current Climate Change Reports 4, 407–416, doi: 10.1007/s40641-018-0113-2.

Piatt J.F. & Kitaysky A.S. 2020a. Horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata), version 1.0. In S.M. Billerman (ed.): Birds of the world. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Accessed on the internet at on 27 April 2020.

Piatt J.F. & Kitaysky A.S. 2020b. Tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata), version 1.0. In S.M. Billerman (ed.): Birds of the world. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Accessed on the internet at on 27 April 2020.

Post E., Bhatt U.S., Bitz C.M., Brodie J.F., Fulton T.L., Hebblewhite M., Kerby J., Kutz S.J., Stirling I. & Walker D.A. 2013. Ecological consequences of sea-ice decline. Science 341, 519–524, doi: 10.1126/science.1235225.

Robinson B.W., Johnson A.S., Lovette I.J. & Romano M.D. 2019. Potential northward expansion of the breeding range of red-legged kittiwake Rissa brevirostris. Marine Ornithology 47, 229–234.

Smith T.G. 1974. A horned puffin, Fratercula coniculata, near Coppermine, Northwest Territories. Canadian Field Naturalist 88, 353.

Thomas C.D. & Lennon J.J. 1999. Birds extend their ranges northwards. Nature 399, 213, doi: 10.1038/20335.

Vermeij G.J. & Roopnarine P.D. 2008. The coming Arctic invasion. Science 321, 780–781, doi: 10.1126/science.1160852.

Virkkala R. & Lehikoinen A. 2017. Birds on the move in the face of climate change: high species turnover in northern Europe. Ecology and Evolution 7, 8201–8209, doi: 10.1002/ece3.3328.

Wong S.N.P., Gjerdrum C., Morgan K.H. & Mallory M.L. 2014. Hotspots in cold seas: the composition, distribution, and abundance of marine birds in the North American Arctic. Journal of Geophysical Research—Oceans 119, 1694–1705, doi: 10.1002/2013JC009198.

Wright M. 2011. Tufted puffin in Kent: new to Britain. British Birds 104, 261–265.
How to Cite
Burnham K. K., Burnham J. L., Johnson J. A., Konkel B. W., Stephens J., & Badgett H. (2020). First record of horned puffin in the North Atlantic and tufted puffin in High Arctic Greenland. Polar Research, 39.
Research Notes

Most read articles by the same author(s)