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Tufted Puffins Have Returned to Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach
Published: 02/20/2011
Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) are sometimes referred to as clowns of the sea because of their prominent features: white face, thick orange bill and dramatic eyebrow tufts.
Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) are sometimes referred to as clowns of the sea because of their prominent features: white face, thick orange bill and dramatic eyebrow tufts.

Each spring, colorful Tufted Puffins return to nest on Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock after spending the majority of their year floating and diving on open seas.

It's like the swallows return to Capistrano only wetter. Each spring, colorful Tufted Puffins that have spent the last eight months floating and diving on open seas, return to Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock to lay eggs and raise their chicks. On April 7, the first of the puffins began arriving on Haystack Rock according to Nala Cardillo, coordinator of the Haystack Rock Awareness Program.

Throughout the puffins' stay, interpreters from Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock Awareness Program will be on the beach with spotting scopes focused on the nesting birds offering visitors an opportunity to see the colorful characters. Two special events will offer an emphasis on spotting the colorful seabirds. From April 13-May 24, Cannon Beach hosts Twelve Days of Earth Day and on Independence Day weekend, July 2-4, the city hosts the Great Cannon Beach Puffin Watch on the beach with bird watching stations and interpretive programs as an alternative to fireworks. State laws prohibiting fireworks on the beach are enforced on the Cannon Beach shoreline to protect nesting seabirds on the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and sensitive marine environments including Haystack Rock, a protected area and State of Oregon designated Marine Garden.

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach provides one of the Northwest's most accessible locations to observe puffins nesting in their natural environment. Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) prefer to nest in inaccessible locations, usually remote rocky islands with grassy areas into which they burrow their nests.

From a distance, they are also easy to recognize. Their wings flap furiously and continuously to keep their stocky bodies airborne. Puffins are actually much better divers than they are fliers. They literally fly underwater, flapping their wings in pursuit of fish to feed themselves and their new brood. Sometimes referred to as sea clowns because of their white face, thick orange bill and yellow eyebrow tufts. The puffins will be observable through spring and early summer. Most of the year, the puffins are a nondescript gray, but come spring breeding season, the bright colors emerge that make them one of the West Coast's most popular birds. The puffins are most visible and active at Haystack Rock from April through early July. Once chicks have hatched, parents are busy at sea, fishing for food to bring home to the burrow. By late August, the puffin chicks will be ready to return to open seas with their parents.

ABOUT HAYSTACK ROCK AWARENESS PROGRAM: Since 1985, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program has worked to educate visitors about preserving Cannon Beach's most recognizable landmark, Haystack Rock. Trained staff and volunteers offer interpretive information to the public including displays of live intertidal creatures and bird-spotting scopes aimed at nesting seabirds. The program is now partially funded by the City of Cannon Beach, along with private donations through the non-profit organization Friends of Haystack Rock. The program has been acknowledged as a model for community-based volunteer programs. Haystack Rock is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and is protected as a Marine Garden by the State of Oregon.

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