Puffin swoops down with food hanging out of its beak

Photo: © Danny Green/National Geographic

Swooping in for a landing, an Atlantic puffin brings a meal for its chick on Scotland’s Treshnish Isles. Puffin parents make up to eight food runs a day; each bird can grip 20 or more fish in its beak.

In National Geographic's "Puffin Therapy," Tom O'Neill shines a spotlight on the adorable yet mysterious Atlantic puffin. These clown-like seabirds lead rather solitary lives out at sea, but when spring arrives, they return to land for breeding.

Often likened to a "carnival of puffins," these annual springtime marathons of socializing, courting and mating take place along coastlines all across the northern Atlantic. Iceland attracts at least half of all the population, but around 10 percent of all puffins flock to the British Isles, which is where photographer Danny Green captured these photos.

Although puffins are currently listed as being of "Least Concern" in the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species, some scientists and avian enthusiasts are worried about the species' long-term trajectory as the population declines in the wake of ripples in the food chain caused by warming waters.

To see more photos of these beautiful birds, continue below and be sure to check out the June issue of National Geographic.

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Puffin eyes its realm at the Hermaness Reserve in the Shetland Islands.

Photo: © Danny Green/National Geographic

A puffin eyes its realm at the Hermaness Reserve in the Shetland Islands. Puffins burrow near cliff edges, allowing quick access to the sea and a good place to watch out for gulls and other seabirds that steal their food.

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Billing puffins

Photo: © Danny Green/National Geographic

It’s called billing: the rubbing and clacking of beaks when puffins court. On Skomer Island in Wales, a pair displays the grooved orange beak and bright eye ring of breeding puffins.

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

'Carnival of puffins': Comical seabirds delight, even as conservation worries loom
'Puffin Therapy' shines a spotlight on the mysterious Atlantic puffin, a species of sea bird that is facing decline.