When do the puffins return to the Treshnish Isles?

It is a very common question that we get asked many times every year – ‘when do the puffins come back from the sea?’. The answer to this, like with so much else about puffins, is perhaps more complicated than is first apparent. It is not unusual to see them singly bobbing about the sea in March, but not in large numbers. In early April it can be a frustrating experience waiting for the puffins, and indeed their many guillemot, razorbill and other cousins to put in an appearance on and around their breeding spots on Lunga and the Harp Rock.


Puffins at Lunga and the Harp Rock

The ‘Return of the Puffins’

The Sixth of April 2019 is almost certainly the earliest we have ever seen the puffins ashore on Lunga. The change from the day before couldn’t be more stark – we had seen a couple of single puffins at a distance on the open ocean, but none even looking as though they were contemplating life ashore. It was quite surprising therefore to round the Harp Rock to the sight of hundreds ashore by their burrows. Even more surprising was the other birds also ashore with many kittiwakes, some shags and good numbers of guillemots too.


Like Swallows, one Day of Puffins definitely does not make a Summer

There is a huge caveat to the puffins arriving early story however – and there, along with the answer to ‘where do the puffins go in the winter?’ question, lies the complication. We might head out to the Treshnish Isles over the coming days and find not a single puffin ashore. We may even hardly see any on the water, particularly if the weather becomes unsettled and cold. It is difficult to know when the birds are ‘established’ ashore and bitter experience has proved to us that in early to mid, even sometimes later April, it can be a bit of a lottery as to what we will find when we get to the islands – one day ‘wall to wall’ puffins and their neighbours, other days not so much!


Where do they go in the Winter?

For those thinking ‘hang on, what about where they go in the winter?’; a small part of the answer, while complicated, can be found here:



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