Protecting endangered Puffins

Recently I stayed in Northumberland for a week, where I took a boat tour around the Farne Islands to pay a visit to the Arctic Puffins. They are such beautiful little birds and are impossible to not fall in love with. They’re known for their characteristic faces and their wonderful way of moving– often being likened to a clock work toy!

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Sadly, however, these beautiful little clowns of the sea are rapidly decreasing in numbers. There are several contributing factors:

  • Over-fishing

  • Hunting

  • Pollution

  • Global warming

  • Unnatural predators

Over fishing has resulted in depleting the stocks of Puffins’ natural food sources; Herrings and Sandeels. Consequently there is not enough food for puffins to feed their young, leaving them to starve. As well as their food source being diminished, puffins themselves have been hunted in the past for food and feathers. In 1900 almost every puffin colony in Maine was wiped out due to this over-hunting.

Luckily in the modern day, the hunting of puffins is not common at all, and is done is a much more sustainable way, however we are still posing a huge risk in other ways. Oil spillages cause serious harm to puffins, as the oil can destroy the waterproofing on their feathers, leaving them exposed to the icy temperatures of the North Atlantic and they are often unable to recover from this. They also swallow the oil trying to clean their feathers, which can make them very ill and usually will kill them.

In some cases, humans have introduced animals (such as foxes and rats) that have become predators to Puffins, and they do not have any adaptations to avoid them so this can pose a huge threat. Luckily, rats have been eradicated from several islands to protect puffins, and this will hopefully continue to be done.

It is hugely important that we get to work to save the loveable puffins! While humans have caused damage to the puffin population, we also have the power to restore their numbers.

A lot of work is being done by conservationists around the Farne Islands, where between 2003 and 2008 the Puffin population decreased by 30%. Puffins have been tagged and tracked to see where they are feeding so that these areas can be protected to ensure that there is enough food for them to feed their Pufflings, and since then the population is being successfully restored. There are also many conservation groups and charities that work to protect Puffins, for example the Scottish Seabird Centre. Just like with any endangered animal we don’t want to see them die out, so spread the word and do what you can to save the puffins!


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