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Horned puffin burrows are usually about 1 meter (3.3 feet) deep, ending in a chamber, while the tunnel leading to a tufted puffin burrow may be up to 2.75 meters (9.0 feet) long.The nesting substrate of the tufted and Atlantic puffins is soft soil, into which tunnels are dug; in contrast the nesting sites of horned puffins are rock crevices on cliffs.On the Blasket Islands off the coast of County Kerry, which were abandoned in 1953, the islanders, who often lived just above starvation level, hunted and ate puffins in large numbers.The Atlantic puffin forms part of the national diet in Iceland, where the species does not have legal protection.The Fraterculini are thought to have originated in the Pacific primarily because of their greater diversity there; there is only one extant species in the Atlantic, compared to two in the Pacific.The Fraterculini fossil record in the Pacific extends at least as far back as the middle Miocene, with three fossil species of Cerorhinca, and material tentatively referred to that genus, in the middle Miocene to late Pliocene of southern California and northern Mexico.

In the air, they beat their wings rapidly (up to 400 times per minute) The English name "puffin" – puffed in the sense of swollen – was originally applied to the fatty, salted meat of young birds of the unrelated Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), formerly known as the "Manks puffin".

The puffins are distinct in their ability to hold several (sometimes over a dozen) small fish at a time, crosswise in their bill, rather than regurgitating swallowed fish.

This allows them to take longer foraging trips, since they can come back with more food energy for their chick than a bird that can only carry one fish at a time.

Like many auks, puffins eat both fish and zooplankton, but feed their chicks primarily with small marine fish several times a day.

The prey species of the Atlantic puffin include the sandeel, herring and capelin.

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