Puffins Return to Haystack Rock

Capistrano may have its swallows, but Cannon Beach has its puffins. Each spring, puffins that have spent the last eight months floating and diving on the open seas of the Pacific Ocean return to Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock to lay eggs and raise their chicks.

Puffins nest on Haystack Rock from April through July and are best viewed now through July. Almost comical, puffins are colorful, squat, blackbirds with large, bright orange bills, white facial features, and tufts of yellow feathers above the eyes. Look for them on the grassy north slope of the rock.  There,  they burrow tunnels into the soil so nests, eggs, and chicks are protected from predators.

Puffins are versatile because of the many skills they rely on to survive.  They fly out to sea, live on the water, dive 200 feet deep for food, and return to nest.

Haystack Rock is home to the largest Tufted Puffin breeding colony in Oregon.  In early April when puffins show up at Haystack Rock, most have already found their lifelong partners.  They are returning to the same protected burrow they used last year to raise their young. 

16 weeks at Haystack Rock

The Tufted Puffins will spend about 16 weeks at the rock.  For the first couple weeks the puffins stake out their territory and clean up their burrow.  Once their burrow is ready, the female puffin will lay a single, chicken-sized egg, which both the male and female incubate.   Incubation usually lasts 41-54 days. Though usually tucked back inside the burrow, newly hatched puffins appear at the ‘Rock’ beginning in late June through mid to late August.

Despite the fact that you may not be able to see the pufflings, activity around the rock is hectic and plentiful: it is fun to observe the parent puffins making multiple trips to their burrow with bills full of fish for their young.  You can distinguish the Puffins from gulls.  Gulls soar gracefully, puffins do not. 

About 38 to 60 days after hatching, under the protection of dark (to escape the ever-watchful, hungry eyes of bald eagles), all of the puffins will leave the safety of the rock and return to the open ocean, where they will spend the winter.   

The best Puffin viewing is April and May, then again in late June and July.  Watch during low tides and bring binoculars or a spotting scope.

Without viewing aids,  Puffins look like big bumblebees buzzing around the top of the rock.

Discover Tufted Puffins at Cannon Beach

Puffins! The Pacific Northwest has so much to offer—stunning rocky coastlines, pristine beaches, and lush forestry. That and the diverse wildlife that thrives near  Tolovana Inn is sure to pique any nature lover’s interest. Those staying at Oregon Coast lodging from April to early September will be delighted to know that they’re bound to see tufted puffins in Cannon Beach during their getaway.

A Background on Cannon Beach Puffins

Generally, colonies of tufted puffins congregate around Haystack Rock, a well-known natural landmark near our Cannon Beach hotel. Unfortunately, there has been a steady decline in the puffin population over the past few decades, landing them on the endangered species list in 2015. Several factors may attribute to this fact, including climate change, a reduction in accessible food sources, fishing net entrapments, increased predation from eagles, and humans disturbing nesting grounds. For these reasons, it’s essential to keep your distance and maintain a mindful perspective as you embark on a tufted puffin quest from our Canon Beach resort. To learn more about what you can do to help sustain the Cannon Beach puffins, reach out to Haystack Rock Awareness Program.

Tips for Spotting Tufted Puffins in Oregon

Haystack Rock provides a home for one of the largest populations of puffins on the Oregon Coast. They tend to burrow in the meadows on the north and west Rock faces. It’s here where several tufted puffin couples will assemble in the spring to raise their puffling. The best time to spot a Cannon Beach puffin is during a sunny morning at low tide. Bring along a pair of binoculars so that you can maintain a safe distance, and keep an eye out for “little black flying footballs.” If you’re unsure whether you see a murre or a tufted puffin, murres have white bellies, and puffins have black. For those seeking a little more guidance, consider signing up for a Public Birding Walking Tour.

Enjoy the Wildlife near Our Cannon Beach Lodging

Just over an hour outside of Portland, Tolovana Inn provides a seaside experience you’re sure to love. Fall asleep to the soothing sound of ocean waves in our cozy accommodations and discover diverse landscapes and unique wildlife, like tufted puffins at Cannon Beach. Sweeten your stay in our quintessential coastal village with one of our special offers. For more information on our availability and area activities, please give us a call at 1-503-436-2211.

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