On Friday I gave you this mystery skull to identify:
It’s not particularly complete, but the bill is very distinctive so most of you got the correct identification. Well done to Ric Morris, Barbara Powell, Jake, biologycurator, henstridgesj and Robin for spotting that this is the skull of a Puffin, more specifically an Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica (Linnaeus, 1758).
When alive, these charismatic little Alcids (or Auks) have a brightly coloured bill which they use in sexual display. They also use their large bill to capture and carry large numbers of prey (mostly Sand Eels) that they gather using wing-propelled swimming. I would be interested to know whether that bill acts as a forward rudder when they dive – it certainly looks like it should!
Out of the water, these birds have the interesting habit of nesting in Rabbit burrows, to help defend against Skuas and Gulls that will eat their eggs and young and sometimes attack the adult Puffins. This unwanted attention may be because the Puffin is quite small and fatty, so it makes a good source of food – or it could be because Puffins look a bit like clowns, and clowns are just plain creepy.