Norges Bank

On the watermark – the Atlantic puffin

The watermark is an important banknote security feature, and appears in grey tones when the note is held up to the light. They grey tones reflect different paper thicknesses. The watermarks of the most recent Norwegian banknote series were the portraits on the banknote. With "The Sea" as the theme of the new banknote series, it was important to find a motif that is relevant to the theme, while sharing the characteristics of a portrait in the form of gradual, or sculptural, transitions. The Atlantic puffin was chosen, a familiar sea bird with a very distinctive appearance.

In Latin: Fratercula arctica, German: Papageitaucher, French: Macareux moine
Text obtained from the Norwegian Polar Institute website and Wikipedia

The Atlantic puffin is a medium-sized member of the auk family (Alcidae) that is easily recognized by its large and colourful beak. Adults reach 26–29 cm in length and weigh 310–550 g. The sexes are similar in appearance. Besides the puffin's large beak, on the side of each head there is characteristic large area of pale grey, which is separated from the white breast by a black collar. The puffin's upper surface is black, while its underside is white. Its legs and webbed feet are bright orange. The large beak is laterally flattened and has deep grooves in red, yellow and blue. In winter plumage, the sides of the head are darker grey, and the beak is smaller because several horny layers fall off during that season. Juvenile birds resemble the adults in winter plumage, but their beaks are smaller and darker in colour. The Atlantic puffin is generally silent, but in its burrowing ground at the breeding colony, it makes a muffled growling sound.

The species breeds on both sides of the North Atlantic from the northeastern parts of North America and the British Isles in the south to Greenland, Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya (Russia) in the north. In Europe, the vast majority of puffins breed along the Atlantic Ocean and Norwegian Sea.

During breeding season, between April and August/September, puffins occupy breeding sites along nesting cliffs. The rest of the year is spent over the open sea. In Norway, puffins breed along the coast from western Norway northwards. Runde island in Sunnmøre is an important breeding site in the southern portion of the breeding range. However, the largest colony is found on Røst island in Lofoten. Colonies there can number up to several hundred thousand birds. Another known breeding site is Lovund on the Helgeland coast. According to folklore, the puffins return each year on the same date, 14 April. This is the beginning of the breeding season and the birds arrive in their thousands.

The Atlantic puffin is a highly colonial species, typically nesting in underground burrows that are dug in grass-covered soil on offshore islands. Where such habitat is in short supply, like in Svalbard, puffins nest in rock crevices and in holes among stones. The puffin feeds mainly on small schooling fish. Crustaceans, squid and polychaete worms (Nereidae) are also important, especially outside the breeding season. Most puffins search for food in the open sea.

Published 27 July 2017 10:04