Boasting bright-colored plumage, Tufted Puffins that have spent the last eight months floating and diving on open seas return each spring to Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock to lay eggs and raise their chicks. One of the Northwest's most accessible locations to observe puffins nesting in their natural environment, Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, provides an ideal habitat for the puffins who prefer to nest on rocky islands with grassy areas into which they can burrow their nests, usually in inaccessible locations like Haystack Rock.
Tufted Puffins are highly recognizable because of their breeding plumage, consisting of a white face, thick orange bill, and yellow eyebrow tufts. Most of the year, the puffins are a nondescript gray, but during spring breeding season, the bright colors emerge, making them one of the west coast's most popular birds. From a distance, these puffins are also easy to recognize. Their wings flap furiously and continuously to keep their stocky bodies airborne. Puffins are much better divers than they are fliers. They appear to fly underwater, flapping their wings in pursuit of fish to feed themselves and their new brood. The puffins are most visible and active at Haystack Rock from April through early July. Once chicks have hatched, parents are busy at sea, fishing for food to bring home to the burrow. By late August, the puffin chicks will be ready to return to the open sea with their parents.
Between May and Labor Day, during daytime low tides, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) presents interpretive programs at Haystack Rock. The puffins can be viewed through equipment set up for public use, and trained volunteers are on hand to answer questions and help visitors spot the birds. Read about HRAP and pick up a complete schedule at the Visitor Information Center.
"HRAP will have at least one scope set up for puffin viewing, it will be roped off and limited to one family unit per time and managed by a staff member or volunteer who will clean the scope between uses. We will set up a queue for people who want to use the scope and have a staff member available to talk to those people, providing educational information about puffins and answering questions. If one scope is feasible and working well, we will set up this same socially distanced and sterilized approach for multiple scopes. Program operations are always subject to change due to Covid-19 or under the direction of Oregon State Parks." -Kelli Ennis, Program Director