Penguin and Puffins

If you looked at them from a distance, you might mistake a penguin for a puffin and vice versa, but there are many differences between the two animals. Even though, puffins might look similar to smaller penguins because of their size and color of their feathers, the similarities between the two ends here. In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the differences between a penguin and a puffin so that next time you see either bird, you can tell if it’s a penguin or a puffin.

Habitat – Penguins, and puffins are distinct in their habitats as they are found in different parts of the world. While penguins are located mostly in the southern hemisphere, puffins are found mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, namely Iceland. Both penguins and puffins face the risks of human interference in their habitats as pollution, oil spills, and tourist activities put stress on their food availability.

Penguins and Puffins Look Alike But They Are Different
donkey penguins

Species – Puffins belong to the Alcidae family of seabirds while penguins belong to the Spheniscidae family. There are 18 species of penguins found in the Southern Hemisphere and many of them are under the endangered status. Puffins have four species and they are not classified as endangered even though their population is on a decline.

Physical Appearance – There are several remarkable differences between the appearance of penguins and puffins. While there are small and large penguins, puffins are mostly on the smaller size. A puffin weighs less than a pound while the emperor penguins can weigh as much as 66 pounds. Their beaks also set them apart from each other. Puffins have large and colorful beaks that are used for chomping down on fish.

The beaks of puffins continue to grow through their life and the beaks develop attractive colors during the mating season to attract potential mates. Penguin beaks are usually more pointed and used for quickly grabbing and swallowing fish. Emperor penguins have yellow-orange patches near their neck and ears. Other penguins like rockhopper penguins have attractive colors on their feathers to make them look distinct.

puffins birds
puffins birds

Diet – In the Antarctic region, penguins live on a diet of fish, krill, and small crustaceans. Puffins also eat fish as well as herring, hake, and sand eels. The diets of puffins vary as per the availability of food and the population of puffins in the area.

Puffins can carry as many as ten fish in their big beak at one time and they feed their chicks the fish without pre-digesting them. Penguins feed their chicks beak-to-beak, a digested mixture of fish that looks like milk.

Flight And Diving Abilities – While penguins have flippers that are more suited to swimming, they cannot fly. Puffins, on the other hand, have wings that are developed for flight. Both penguins are puffins have adapted to water, and they can both swim easily. Puffins can dive in the water up to 60 meters, and penguins have greater diving capabilities with deepest recorded dive up to 564m.

Feet – Penguins have clawed feet that help them to get a better grip on the ice and also prevent their feet from freezing in the cold Antarctic weather. Another use of penguin feet is to balance their egg on it so that the egg can be hatched by their hatching pouch. Puffins have webbed feet that help them to swim in the sea and also skip and hop over rocks on the shore. While penguin claws are dark in color, puffins have bright orange feet.

Breeding Season – Penguins are restricted to breeding during the winter season so that their chicks hatch by the time its summer. Puffins mate during the summer season. Both penguins and puffins mate for every season and share parental duties though hatching eggs in solely the duty of father penguins though puffins share the egg hatching duties.


Hopefully, by now you have a clear idea of the differences between penguins and puffins. One way to distinguish between the two is that the largest puffin is smaller than the smallest penguin. The tufted puffin is 14 inches tall and it is the largest puffin of all the puffin species, while the fairy penguin is the smallest penguin standing at 16 inches tall.

So, even if the two birds look similar, you can easily tell the differences between each in terms of their habitat, eating habits, and physical attributes. Do you think there are any more differences between penguins and puffins? Feel free to discuss your questions and queries in the comment section. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.



Image Source:

  1. donkey penguins by MartinFuchs / Pixabay License
  2. puffins birds by No-longer-here / Pixabay License

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.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: