Puffin vs. Penguin

Puffin vs. Penguin

Puffin and penguin are types of seabirds. There are 4 species of puffin that belong to the family Alcidae and 18 species of penguin that are members of the family Spheniscidae. Puffin and penguin are covered with black and white feathers. Despite great morphological similarity, they are not close relatives. Puffin and penguin inhabit coastal areas which provide plenty of food. Unfortunately, number of both types of birds in the wild is declining due to overfishing (reduction of food sources), climate changes, introduction of predators and hunting (because of their meat and eggs). Aside from similar coloration of plumage and feeding preferences, penguin and puffin do not have much in common. They differ in:

Geographic Distribution

All species of puffin inhabit Northern hemisphere (60% of the entire population is located on the Iceland), while penguins are inhabitants of the Southern hemisphere (they inhabit islands and coasts from Antarctica to South America).


Puffin can reach 10 to 15 inches in height and 1.1 to 1.76 pounds of weight, while penguin can reach 10 inches to 4 feet in height and 2.2 to more than 77 pounds of weight, depending on the species. Smallest species of penguin is two times heavier than the smallest species of puffin.

Ability to Fly

Penguin cannot fly because it has short, rigid wings and chubby, heavy body (increased body weight is result of solid bones). Puffin has stocky body, but thanks to its light-weight skeleton made of hollow bones - it can fly. Puffin has short wings designed both for flying in the air and swimming in the water (when it dives, puffin uses its wings to propel itself through the water).


Penguin likes to eat different types of fish, squids and crustaceans, while puffin prefers zooplankton and small fish such as herring, sandeel and hake. Both penguin and puffin collect food from the water. Penguin is an excellent swimmer. Its stiff wings act like flippers and thanks to them, penguin can reach depth of up to 1.854 feet and stay under the water for up to 22 minutes. Unlike penguin, puffin spends only 20 to 30 seconds under the water, but it can collect huge number of fish (up to 62 small fish) during that time thanks to large beaks and small spikes on the roof of its mouth.


Orcas and sharks are natural enemies of both puffin and penguin. Besides them, gulls often hunt puffins, while sea lions prey on penguins.

Nesting Season

Breeding season of penguin takes place during the winter, while mating season of puffin is restricted to summer. Penguin and puffin nest on the coast and form long-lasting couples which share parental duties both during the incubation period and after hatching.

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