As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Will Climate Change Cause Atlantic Puffins To Starve?

Aug 26, 2019, 10:27am

Priya Shukla Contributor Science

In the 19th century, Atlantic Puffins were nearly hunted to extinction for their meat and eggs. By the early 1900s, less than five breeding pairs were recorded in Maine. But, Steve Kress founded Project Puffin at the Audubon Society in 1973 to help recover the species. After transplanting a few Puffins from a healthy colony in New Foundland onto Eastern Egg Rock Island on the southeastern edge of Maine's Muscongus Bay, Kress' team put Puffin decoys around the island to encourage fledglings to return to the Island after migrating. And, from 1997 - 2011, the number of breeding pairs on Eastern Egg Rock increased from 20 to 123.

Despite these successes, the Puffin colony on Eastern Egg Rock is not yet self-sustaining. Regular human presence is required to maintain the puffin colony and keep predators at bay. Additionally, interns are tasked with recording the fish that the Puffins are catching, as these can be indicators of not only the Puffins' health but also regional climate change.

When record-breaking temperatures of 70°F were reached in 2012 (4°F higher than what was then considered average), the Puffins' preferred prey were in short supply. The herring, haddock and hake ("forage fish") that the Puffins feed their chicks may have perished or found refuge in deeper, cooler water not accessible to the puffins. These species are also sought after by lobster fishers for bait and may have made catching prey especially difficult.

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