Puffins know how to use sticks to scratch their itch

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Ever get an itch on your back that you can’t reach? So do puffins.

Puffins are medium-sized birds that live and breed in the North Atlantic, places like Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. Some puffins will pick up a stick in their beak to scratch places they can’t reach, like their back. Using a stick for scratching is considered using a tool use by scientists, something that is rare in animals.

Puffins are pretty cool birds. They can live a long time, 30 to 40 years. Like ducks they can swim, fly and dive into the water to catch small fish to eat. Underwater they flap their wings to swim, like penguins.

The only time the sea birds come ashore is to nest. They will dig small holes in the ground on islands to nest in where the female will lay only one egg. When the chick hatches it is called a puffling. The adults will remain loyal to each other for many years, displaying their affection by rubbing their bills together.

The most noticeable thing about adult puffins is their colorful, triangle-shaped beak with a yellow patch on their cheeks. It has orange and white stripes at the end with a gray patch closer to the head. Younger and older birds’ beaks aren’t as colorful. The birds have white chest feathers and black backs with bright orange feet.

One of the best sources to learn more about the many species of birds in the world is the All About Birds website developed by The Cornell Lab. At www.allaboutbirds.org/news you will find photos and descriptions of the birds, as well as interesting facts about their life history.

Happy new year.

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