Are Puffins Related to Penguins?

Penguins are the most beloved flightless birds whereas puffins are cute little birds that can fly. Penguins and puffins are distant national. Penguins are the habitat of the Southern Hemisphere while puffins are endemic to Northern Hemisphere. They are related only in one aspect that is with their similar black back and white front body.

Penguins belong to the family Spheniscidae, where puffins belong to the family Alcidae. Puffins are distinct from penguins with their size, flying ability, swimming efficiency, appearance, and other characteristics. But they may share a similar diet since puffins are also marine birds.

There is always a genuine question regarding the similarities with penguins and puffins which is because of their colorations. People in the Northern Hemisphere would have spotted the puffins from far and might have assumed it as penguins.


Places Where Puffins Live:

Puffins are endemic to the Atlantic Ocean. Nearly 60% of puffins are found near Iceland.  They are the habitat off the coasts of eastern Canada, northern United States, Western Europe, and northern Russia. They prefer to live in the open sea.

Places Where Penguins Live:

There are a total of 17 species of penguins. Penguins are found in the subantarctic and temperate islands. The northerly of all the living penguin species is the Galapagos penguins that live near the equator.  They thrive in tropical islands. Emperor penguins live in the icy Antarctic.

Penguins are also the habitat of South Africa, Australia, and also New Zealand. African penguins are found in the South of Africa and little penguins live in Australia.

The Appearance of Puffins:

Puffins look small and weightless when compared to penguins. They stand with a height of 25 cm. Puffins have parrot-like features. They look like a type of sea parrot. Bright orange colored beak and clean white markings make them attractive. Like other birds, they thin legs, whereas penguins have strong legs.

Puffins are proficient fliers and they can beat their wings to 400 times per second. Like penguins puffins also have waterproof plumages that protect them from cold and water.

The Appearance of Penguins:

Appearance and size can vary from species to species. The tallest of all the living penguins is the emperor penguin with a height of 1.1m and weighs about 41 kg. Smallest of all the penguins are the little penguins also called fairy penguins with a weight of 1 kg and a height of 30 to 33 cm.

Penguins look like a torpedo and some say that penguins look like the participants of the royal wedding with the tuxedo look because of the black dorsal and white ventral side.

Like puffins, they have wings also called flippers that are used to swim. Penguins are excellent divers and swimmers. Penguins have solid bones that are useful to make them good swimmers.

The feet of penguins have insulated sheath that protects them from the severe cold on a frigid land. Penguins have webbed feet that are also a significant feature for swimming.

penguins group
penguins group

Characteristics of Puffins and Penguins:


They dive in the water to the depth of 60 m. At the age of 3 or 4 puffins choose their life partner. Puffins join their colony once on land. Like penguin’s pair of puffins also has the behavior of rubbing the beaks indicating the emotion of love or care.

Puffins form burrows in soil or between the rocks. They build nests with seaweed or grasses or sometimes with feathers to lay eggs. The parents take turns to incubate and protect the eggs as penguins do. They can carry plenty of fishes in its beak at one time. Young puffins prefer to stay clean without risking the waterproof plumage.


Penguins are social birds. They stay in the colony but few species dive in the water alone to find the prey. They nest in huge colonies called rookeries during their breeding season. Penguins are highly territorial; they don’t want their nests to be unsafe. Penguins preen their feathers frequently.

The flippers are the wings of penguins covered with scaly feathers. Emperor penguin can stay underwater for a maximum of 27 minutes. The blubber in the penguin’s body which is the fat covered over their body can give them warmth and tolerance of frigid atmosphere.

They can dive up to a depth of 530 meters. The breeding season differs according to the place where they live. Penguins undergo a stage called molting every year, where the old feathers shed and new ones grow. During the molting season, the penguins fast and avoid swimming in the water.

Penguins’ mating choices and culture differ from puffins. Also, some penguins stay as divorced. They build nests in burrows in guanos; they build stone nests for laying eggs and incubating eggs.

They also show aggressiveness when they face a threat and insecurity with the eggs and chicks. They point their beak to the opponent and also stare at times to show their anger.

Existing Status:

Puffins are not considered to be an endangered species and they are not on the red list. However, there is a decline in colonies due to overfishing, global warming, and water pollution.

Almost all the species of penguins are under severe threat for extinction. The main reasons behind the worse situation are a human interruption in their habitat, overfishing, water pollution, egg harvesting, and global warming.

Puffins can live around 20 years in the wild, where penguins can live around 20 years in the wild and 30 years in captivity. Some researchers say that penguins can live up to 50 years. The lifespan depends on the species of penguins.


All four species of puffins belong to the northern hemisphere and they have no substantial relationship with the flightless birds called penguins. We can find puffins and penguins in zoos across the world.

Puffins’ diet differs from colonies to colonies depending upon the availability of food. But, penguins and puffins share two common kinds of seafood like small fish and crustaceans.

Puffins are even less aggressive than penguins remembering the fact that penguins are nowhere dangerous to humans. Puffins are soft birds that have unique characters and behaviors that vary from other marine birds.


Image source:

  1. Puffins by No-longer-here / Pixabay License
  2. penguins group by Antarctica Bound / CC BY

I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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