Iceland Mag

13 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Traveller stopped upon return to US when customs officials discover stuffed puffin

By Staff

  • Stuffed puffin This stuffed puffin is on sale on the online classified ad and auction site The asking price is 23.000 ISK (230 USD). Photo/oskaretaxidermy,

A US traveller returning from Iceland was stopped by customs officials at Baltimore-Washington International Airport earlier this month when a stuffed puffin was discovered in his luggage. Although puffins are not classified as endangered species a 1918 law makes it illegal to bring stuffed puffins into the US. The Baltimore Sun reports that the puffin was confiscated. The traveller faces no penalty.

Legal in Iceland, illegal in the US

Stuffed puffin and chick, taxidermied, taxidermy

Stuffed puffin and chick In Icelandic the word for puffin chicks, or pufflings, is pysja. Photo/Oskare taxidermy

Puffins have been hunted in Iceland throughout the centuries and continue to be hunted today. Puffin hunting requires a permit, and puffins are protected for most of the year, but puffin meat can be bought at better grocery stores in Reykjavík, at the downtown flea market Kolaportið and at restaurants.

Stuffed puffins are offered for sale at some shops in downtown Reykjavík and online. A local taxidermy company Oskare Taxidermy, for example, is currently offering a taxidermied puffin on the Icelandic classified ad and auction site (a kind of Icelandic Craigslist) for 23.000 ISK (230 USD/200 EUR).

The importation of stuffed puffins into the US was made illegal by a 1918 law which bans the possession, importation or exportation, sale or purchase of any migratory birds, their parts, nests or eggs. Puffins, who are pelagic, spend most of their time at sea, migrating from their nesting grounds to the open ocean in the fall. Young puffins spend 2-3 years on the open sea before returning back home to nest and build their own burrows.

Customs agents and Baltimore sun seem amused by the puffin
The Baltimore Sun reports that the taxidermy puffin was brought into the US on June 2 in a box carried by the traveller. The traveller had declared the bird to the authorities, allowing him to be released without a penalty after customs officials seized the bird. A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the Baltimore Sun that it was "very unusual" to see "a full-sized, taxidermied Atlantic puffin".

The Baltimore Sun goes on to report on the fact that puffins are eaten in Iceland, a fact which the paper seems to find fascinating:

"Atlantic puffins number in the millions worldwide, and they're particularly abundant in Iceland, where they are traditionally eaten, according to Susie Meadows, manager of the Project Puffin Visitor Center in Rockland, Maine. ... "Just like we have turkey season and we eat grouse, they have puffin season," Meadows said. "That's kind of a game bird in their area."

Puffins, which can be clumsy on land, are unquestionably one of the most adorable animals in the Northern Hemisphere. 

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