Monday, February 4, 2013

Puffin Observations

Before starting work on a game at Wero Creative about puffins, I was warned that watching videos of the adorable little birds is addictive.  Adam Clare, you were right.

At first, I did studies from the videos, getting a sense of how the birds are built so I could cartoon them later.  Then, I started to notice the quirks of their behaviour and movement.

While watching this video, I noticed one puffin walk upright with its chest arched out, while the other puffins around it scuttled by with hunched backs.  (It starts at 3:13.)  

My assumption was that one puffin was displaying power to the other subordinate birds.  The raised chest and beak pressed firmly against the body reminded me of Don Draper in every meeting ever, and a real life fellow I know named Fred who walks through life with his chin against his neck.

After doing some research, I learned the pose is not a display of power, but a sign the puffin is a parent.  Puffins raise their young in burrows, so groups of adult puffins will stand together outside to guard the nests.  When a puffin is around its own burrow, it walks around ‘on guard’ with slow, deliberate, upright movements.  The other puffins take passive, hunched over poses to show they mean no harm.

This low profile pose occurs again when a puffin lands on another puffin’s property.

After landing, it does a little curtsy.  Head low, foot out, wings up.  Puffins need to group together for safety, so their social behaviours communicate non-hostility.

Also, I noticed the birds are constantly twitching and twisting their heads around like little Linda Blairs.  I hear puffins are tasty creatures, and I imagine their vigilance is in direct proportion to their deliciousness.

Puffins do a little antic before they poop (above image, bottom right).  It’s adorable.

Lastly, puffins sound exactly like chainsaws.  I need to find a way to incorporate this in the game.

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