Puffin launch

puffinAn Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) pounding the sea with its feet as it builds enough speed to get airborne. I photographed this bird near the Bass Rock in southeastern Scotland. Puffin wings are designed both for rapid aerial flight (exceeding 50 mph) and for underwater diving (200 feet down). Take-off is therefore cumbersome, as the wings only generate lift at high speeds.

This bird likely had chicks in a burrow on the islands nearby. Peregrine falcons patrolled the cliffs. Two good reasons for agility.

10 thoughts on “Puffin launch

  1. martine

    The little brother of the Arctic ! Thank you for this nice photo.
    The puffin is the embleme of our “Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux” and there is a big colony of them in Britany (Perros-Guirrec).

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    More photos please! A hypothetical conundrum: if the wingspan increased to the extent that it reduced the energy debit of take-off by 25%, to what extent would it detract from fish catching success at depth? God must have designed those wings just the right length and shape! (joke)
    Uncle John

    Reply
  3. johnboulton10

    More photos please! A hypothetical conundrum: if the wingspan increased to the extent that it reduced the energy debit of take-off by 25%, to what extent would it detract from fish catching success at depth? God must have designed those wings just the right length and shape! (joke)
    Uncle John

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      The gods Poseidon and Anemoi cooperated on this Creation project.

      Good question, to which I do not know the answer. But I suspect that the additional buoyancy of more wing feathers would be a complicating factor. The wing shape also lets them fly at great speed, like fighter jets, so there is an aerial trade-off too.

      Hope all is well with you!

      Reply
  4. Jonathan G. Rogers

    Great shot of a magnificent creature. I have the great fortune to visit some islands off the coast of Maine where puffin viewing is possible.

    Reply

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