The last of the regularly occurring species of the Auk-family on Spitsbergen is the Atlantic Puffin. There are two other members that are seen occasionally, the Common Murre and the Razorbill, but they are quite rare, so not included in this overview.
People who come to Spitsbergen and expect to see a lot of Puffins are often disappointed. Puffins like to dig burrows for their nests, which is very difficult with the permafrost on Spitsbergen. As a consequence, they have to breed on cliffs, where they make their nest in cracks between the rocks. This is something which they don’t seem to like too much, hence their low numbers.
Having said that, we still see Puffins on most of our trips in summer. Especially in fjords on the west coast (Smeerenburgfjord, Isfjord, Hornsund) we regularly see them flying around the ship. And yes, they often fly around the ship. When you see one fly by and you’re just too late for a picture, just wait a little. They often circle around the ship and will pass by again, giving you another shot.
In contrast to Thick-billed Murres, Puffins can keep more as one fish at the time in their beaks, so they can bring much more food to their chick at once. Because of this, Puffins will stay in their colonies until the chicks can fly.