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Puffin vs. Penguin: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 2, 2023
Puffins are small seabirds with colorful beaks, while penguins are flightless birds found in the Southern Hemisphere.

Key Differences

Puffins, found primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, are known for their distinctive colorful beaks and agile flying abilities. Penguins, on the other hand, reside mainly in the Southern Hemisphere and are recognized for their distinctive waddling walk and exceptional swimming skills.
Puffins, being adept fliers, can catch small fish mid-air or by diving into the water. Penguins, while flightless, are exceptional swimmers, using their flippers to propel themselves while hunting for fish or krill.
The habitats of puffins are usually on rocky cliffs of coastal regions where they dig burrows to lay their eggs. Penguins, in contrast, can be found on icebergs or coastal areas of Antarctica and other southern islands, with some species making nests of stones or living in burrows.
Puffins have a black and white appearance with touches of grey and orange, highlighted by their vibrant beaks during mating season. Penguins sport a more consistent black and white tuxedo appearance, varying slightly among species.
While both puffins and penguins feed primarily on fish, their feeding habits and techniques vary. Puffins often catch several small fish at once, holding them in their beaks, while penguins can consume larger prey due to their bigger size.

Comparison Chart



Flight Ability

Can fly

Nesting Habitat

Rocky cliffs and burrows
Icebergs, coastal areas, nests or burrows


Colorful beak, mostly black and white
Consistent black and white tuxedo look

Predation Technique

Catches multiple fish at once
Hunts larger prey underwater

Puffin and Penguin Definitions


Native to the Northern Hemisphere.
I spotted a puffin while visiting the northern coasts.


Known for its black and white tuxedo appearance.
The child said the penguin looked like it was wearing a suit.


Has the ability to catch multiple fish at once.
The puffin returned with a beak full of fish.


Exceptional swimmer with flipper-like wings.
The penguin dove into the icy waters to hunt.


Often associated with cold coastal regions.
Puffins are frequently seen on the cold, rocky shores.


A flightless bird found primarily in the Southern Hemisphere.
The penguin waddled across the Antarctic ice.


Any of several seabirds of the genus Fratercula of northern regions, characteristically having black-and-white plumage and a vertically flattened, triangular bill that is brightly colored during breeding season.


Primarily feeds on fish and krill.
The penguin caught a sizable fish for its meal.


The young of the Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), especially eaten as food.


Some species are known to slide on their bellies.
The penguin amused us by sliding down the snowy hill.


The Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) or (by extension) any of the other various small seabirds of the genera Fratercula and Lunda that are black and white with a brightly-coloured beak.


Any of various stout, flightless aquatic birds of the family Spheniscidae, of the Southern Hemisphere, having flipperlike wings and webbed feet adapted for swimming and diving, short scalelike feathers, and white underparts with a dark back.


(entomology) Any of various African and Asian pierid butterflies of the genus Appias. Some species of this genus are also known as albatrosses.


(Obsolete) The great auk.


(obsolete) A puffball.


Any of several flightless sea birds, of order Sphenisciformes, found in the Southern Hemisphere, marked by their usual upright stance, walking on short legs, and (generally) their stark black and white plumage.


An arctic sea bird Fratercula arctica) allied to the auks, and having a short, thick, swollen beak, whence the name; - called also bottle nose, cockandy, coulterneb, marrot, mormon, pope, and sea parrot.


An auk (sometimes especially a great auk), a bird of the Northern Hemisphere.


The puffball.


(slang) A nun (association through appearance, because of the often black-and-white habit).


A sort of apple.


(juggling) A type of catch where the palm of the hand is facing towards the leg with the arm stretched downward, resembling the flipper of a penguin.


Any of two genera of northern seabirds having short necks and brightly colored compressed bills


A spiny bromeliad with egg-shaped fleshy fruit, Bromelia pinguin.


A small seabird with a colorful beak.
The puffin's vibrant beak makes it easily recognizable.


A member of the air force who does not fly aircraft.


Renowned for its burrow nesting habits.
The puffin dug a burrow on the cliff's edge.


Any bird of the order Impennes, or Ptilopteri. They are covered with short, thick feathers, almost scalelike on the wings, which are without true quills. They are unable to fly, but use their wings to aid in diving, in which they are very expert. See King penguin, under Jackass.


The egg-shaped fleshy fruit of a West Indian plant (Bromelia Pinguin) of the Pineapple family; also, the plant itself, which has rigid, pointed, and spiny-toothed leaves, and is used for hedges.


Short-legged flightless birds of cold southern especially Antarctic regions having webbed feet and wings modified as flippers


Where can I find puffins in the wild?

Puffins are typically found on the coasts of the Northern Hemisphere.

Can puffins swim like penguins?

Yes, puffins are good swimmers, but their technique differs from penguins.

Do penguins have colorful beaks like puffins?

No, penguins don't have colorful beaks like puffins.

Are puffins larger than penguins?

No, puffins are generally smaller than most penguin species.

Do both puffins and penguins live in colonies?

Yes, both birds often live and breed in large colonies.

Do penguins fly?

No, penguins are flightless birds.

Are there penguins at the North Pole?

No, penguins are native to the Southern Hemisphere.

Do puffins make any sound?

Yes, puffins have a variety of vocalizations, especially during mating season.

Are puffins and penguins related?

While both are birds, puffins and penguins aren't closely related.

What do puffins eat?

Puffins primarily eat small fish.

How do puffins and penguins keep warm in cold habitats?

Both have thick layers of feathers and fat to insulate against cold.

How do puffins catch their prey?

Puffins can catch multiple small fish at once using their beaks.

What's the primary diet of penguins?

Penguins mainly eat fish and krill.

Why do penguins have a tuxedo appearance?

The black and white coloration helps in camouflage while swimming.

Which bird is faster in water, the puffin or the penguin?

Penguins, especially species like the Gentoo penguin, are among the fastest underwater birds.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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