Rare white puffin spotted roaming on remote island

The bird’s unique look is due to a lack of pigmentation caused by a genetic condition.

Rare white puffin spotted roaming on remote island PA Media

A rare white puffin has been spotted on a remote island in the north of Scotland.

The puffin was seen on Handa Island Wildlife Reserve off the coast of Sutherland by rangers from the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

It has only a few black feathers and its bill is largely orange.

The rare bird’s unique look is due to a lack of pigmentation caused by the genetic condition leucism.

It was first spotted on the island in mid-June and rangers said its late arrival and behaviour suggests it is a young bird which is not ready to breed.

Erika Faggiani, Handa ranger at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “When you live and work on Handa you are surrounded by amazing wildlife all the time, but this leucistic puffin is one of the most unusual things I’ve seen in my three seasons on the island.

The white puffin on a ledge with razorbill birds.PA Media

“This is a very rare sighting.

“There are only a small number of reports of leucism at seabird colonies around the UK, including one puffin which bred on Handa in 2018 and 2019 which had light brown feathers instead of black.

“The puffin has only been seen occasionally and it seems to be spending most time in areas where members of the public could not easily spot it, so anyone coming to Handa to see this puffin is likely to be disappointed.

“But visitors can still look forward to seeing and hearing crowds of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills, on the reserve’s tall cliffs.”

Puffins spend most of the year at sea and come ashore in spring to breed, nesting in cliff-top burrows.

The birds, nicknamed “clowns of the sea”, can fly at up to 55mph, beating their wings 400 times a minute.

Puffins are vulnerable to extinction due to decline in sand eels, one of their most important sources of food, from climate change and overfishing.

Handa Island is owned by the Scourie Estate and is managed as a wildlife reserve in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust.