Seabird of the month – Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

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IUCN standing: Weak (World)/ Endangered (Europe)

World inhabitants: 7,400,000 – 8,240,000 mature people with a lowering inhabitants. In Europe, the inhabitants dimension is estimated to have decreased by 68% over the previous 50 years.

Description:

Wingspan: 47 – 63 cm

Life span: over 20 years. The oldest Atlantic Puffin ever recorded was 36 years previous.

Distinct options: Atlantic Puffins have a really distinctive beak. When seen from the facet, it’s broad and triangular. Their carotenoid wealthy eating regimen turns their payments and ft vivid orange – however solely throughout their breeding season! Throughout winter, their payments and ft fade to duller shades. This seabird beats its wings quickly and flies comparatively excessive above the water. When diving, puffins use their wings to push them via the water and their ft as a rudder. This system makes it seem like they’re flying underneath water!

Atlantic Puffin, copyright Glyn Sellors, from the surfbirds galleries

Principal prey: Whereas they largely prey on small fish, corresponding to sand eels, herrings, hakes and capelins, often, they could be noticed consuming crustaceans and molluscs. Whereas foraging, Atlantic Puffins can keep underneath water as much as one minute and may dive as deep as 40 meters. They’ll catch a number of small fish in a single dive, holding them of their beak whereas persevering with to catch different fish. The typical catch is round 10 fish per journey however the document in Britain is a whopping 62 fish directly!

Breeding 

The European breeding inhabitants of Atlantic Puffins is estimated to be round 3,700,000 – 4,120,000 pairs. They breed on grassy slopes on steep sea cliffs, normally on the identical colony the place they themselves hatched. They collect in extensive rafts and mate on the floor of the water. Puffins dig burrows on the bottom or between rocks; the place they construct a delicate nest of feathers and grass to incubate the normally single egg they lay. The eggs are laid in April within the extra southern colonies and are incubated for roughly 40 days. They’re colonial nesters, and so they begin to breed on the age of 4 or 5. They’re primarily monogamous and each dad and mom handle the chick

Inhabitants distribution  

The Atlantic Puffin is a fowl of the colder waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. Its scientific identify, Fratercula arctica means “little brother of the north” in Latin.

This seabird primarily breeds in Europe (Brittany Coast of France, Eire, United Kingdom, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Faroe Islands, and Northern Russia). A lot of the world’s puffins are present in Iceland, the place roughly 60percentt of the inhabitants breeds. Essential colonies are discovered on the West coast of Greenland, the North and West coasts of Norway, the Faroe Islands, the Shetlands, and Orkney Islands.

Whereas at sea, the fowl ranges extensively throughout the North Atlantic Ocean, together with the North Sea, and should enter the Arctic Circle. They usually hunt in areas situated 100 km or extra offshore from their nesting websites, though when feeding their chicks, the birds normally enterprise out at smaller distance, if potential.

They winter from August to early spring on the open ocean removed from land. They’ll go as far south because the Mediterranean Sea. Current monitoring knowledge from birds breeding on the island of Skomer off the Pembrokeshire coast, confirmed that every particular person adopted a distinct route from different puffins and due to this fact travelled alone. Winter after winter, they repeat their very own advanced and distinctive motion patterns.

Younger puffins probably head out to sea with out following their dad and mom, occurring their very own explorations of the huge pelagic world. They then memorise that route and make that very same solitary journey each winter.

Principal threats   

  • Local weather change
  • Overfishing
  • Marine air pollution and oil spills
  • Invasive predators
  • Offshore power constructions
  • Bycatch
  • Attempting to find human consumption

BirdLife and the Atlantic Puffin 

The RSPB ,our Companion from the UK, has via its Venture Puffin requested the general public to ship images of puffins with meals of their payments, from any yr and any colony. 1,085 members of the “Puffarazzi” submitted 3,497 incredible images, from 59 puffin colonies across the UK. The concept past the undertaking was to analyze if puffins’ numbers have plummeted partly resulting from lack of meals, and to learn the way the fish puffins carry of their payments has modified over time.

Fascinating information

Puffins are nice underwater dancers, circling round their prey to muster them, as proven on this video.

As proven within the video under, puffins must carry out lengthy, extraordinary journeys to seek out meals, and overfishing and local weather change are making these journeys all of the tougher, as their most important prey is disappearing from our seas.

Atlantic Puffins will also be attacked by Arctic Skuas that can attempt steal their catch on their approach again from their foraging journey.

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