You may have seen photos and videos circulating the internet of people tossing little puffins or puffins off cliffs. Although you may have been shocked, this is actually a common practice in Iceland. Once the pufflings are ready to go on their own, they must go out to sea and join their flock. However, some of them can get stuck, so communities around Iceland are coming together to help the puffins find their way home. That’s what it’s called flutter season.

Puffins are seabirds of the Alcidae (Auk) family. Although their beak and black and white feathers look similar to a penguin, they are not closely related. Among their close relatives are the gloss and the razor. Puffins, like other puffins, can fly, unlike penguins.

(Credit: DWeeks/Shutterstock)

There is four types from the puffin: the Atlantic, the horned, the tufted and the rhinoceros. The Atlantic is the most common, found around the North Atlantic, including Iceland. Their name most likely derives from the large amount of downy fur their babies have, often called fluff balls.

As pufflings mature and prepare to head to sea, they emerge from their burrows at night and look to the moon for guidance – similar to baby sea turtles. And unfortunately, puffins often make their way to what they think is the moon, but are actually nocturnal, artificial light sources — or light pollution.

(Credit: David Havel/Shutterstock)

Due to light pollution, puffins get lost and stranded in the cities around Iceland. But locals in Iceland have started a puffin season tradition where they go out at night between 9pm and 3am with flashlights and cardboard boxes to hunt for young puffins.

Some pods even congregate in the harbor where the waters can be oily and polluted. In the morning, the locals bring the collected puffles to a rock, where they are then placed on the edge or lightly tossed into the air. The puffins then head out to sea to join their flock where they will stay for the next time 3 to 4 years.

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