Puffins in peril  want to help? Atlantic puffins congregate near their burrows on Eastern Egg Rock, a small island off the coast of Maine (AP photos)
Puffins in peril want to help?
Lexile

Wanted: puffinologists. No experience necessary.

The Audubon Society wants bird lovers to contribute research to a project scientists hope will help save Atlantic puffins from starvation in Maine.

There are about 1,000 pairs of the seabirds, known for their multi-colored beaks and clownish appearance, in Maine. Audubon says the number of puffin fledging chicks has declined in the last two years, possibly because their key food source, herring and hake, are leaving for cooler waters.

Audubon maintains three web cameras on Seal Island, a National Wildlife Refuge in outer Penobscot Bay, 22 miles off Rockland and one of the key puffin habitats in Maine. Volunteers are being asked to watch the puffins feed and answer questions about their feeding behavior, said Steve Kress, director of the National Audubon Society's seabird restoration program.

From 2007-2011, Kress said that 77 percent of puffin pairs on Seal Island produced fledglings, or birds that are able to fly. The number declined to 31 percent in 2012 and 10 percent in 2013 and while 2014 "appears to be better," he said, it's too early to tell.

"This is a citizen science project, hoping to advance the science as well as entertain the viewers," Kress said. "There are some questions that can be better answered through lots of people viewing."

Almost all of Maine's puffin population nests on three islands Matinicus Rock, Eastern Egg Rock, and Seal Island. Kress and others believe the decline in fledged puffin chicks is tied to rising water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine.

The puffins are left to try to eat butterfish, a species more available as herring and hake key food species for puffins seek colder waters, Kress said.

With fewer herring and hake, puffins have been giving their young butterfish but those fish are too big for puffin chicks to eat, and many of the birds starve and die. That's what happened to Petey, the puffin chick the 2012 camera focused on.

Last year's featured puffin chick, Hope, survived. This year's chick, Pal, hatched around June 25.

Audubon is asking web camera watchers to observe Pal and answer a survey about what kind of fish his parents feed him, including how many and when. The web cameras have attracted more than 4 million views since 2012, and more than 1,000 people have completed Audubon surveys.

Puffins, which spend most of their lives at sea, breed in the spring before returning to the ocean in early August. The chicks go to sea after their parents feed them for about 40 days.

Critical thinking challenge: Why do puffins prefer islands?

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COMMENTS (8)
  • matthewspires650@yahoo.com
    8/20/2014 - 08:36 a.m.

    There are about 1,000 pairs of the seabirds, known for their multi-colored and clownish appearance, in Maine Audubon says the number of puffin fledging chicks has declined over the past two years,possibly , because their key food source ,herring and hake , are leaving for cooler waters.The number declined to 31 percent in 2012 and 10 percent in 2013 and while 2014 "appears yo be better", he says,to early to tell.The puffins are left to try to eat butterfish ,a species more available as herring and hake - key food species for puffins.

  • yessiiccaaa_16
    8/21/2014 - 02:47 p.m.

    I would want to help the penguins since they are in danger!they prefer islands because they have better chances to survive. puffins, which spend most of their lives in a sea

  • patrickellis
    10/01/2014 - 10:26 a.m.

    The audubon society wants bird lovers to contribute to researchproject. This will help save the puffins from starvation maine.Their food is declining because the fishes are leaving for cooler waters.

  • patrickellis
    10/01/2014 - 10:27 a.m.

    The audubon society wants bird lovers to contribute to researchproject. This will help save the puffins from starvation maine.Their food is declining because the fishes are leaving for cooler waters.

  • Samd-Lam
    10/22/2014 - 12:01 p.m.

    I love puffins there one of my birds I didn't know they lived in the USA but that's too bad that their leaving because loss of food. Hopefully they will be able to repopulate so we have plenty of puffins in the future.

  • Son_Of_Zeus
    2/22/2015 - 09:43 p.m.

    This article is about puffins and why they are endangerd. I think that people should help the puffins because they are really cool animals. The reason people should save puffins is because they are important to the world and ecosystem. If we don't try to save them then they will go extinct.

  • Haley Patterson
    2/27/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    I think puffins are really cool animals that don't get enough credit. You never hear about them and nobody ever makes any movies about them, they only do it about animals that are popular.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    11/04/2015 - 08:19 p.m.

    I think that the puffins need to be helped. Many puffins might be dying because they don't have a lot of stuff to eat. The baby puffins are also dying because they aren't eating the right kinds of food. I hope that the puffins will survive and possibly get better. Puffins mostly live by water where there are a lot of fish. Many people are trying to help the puffin population to grow and to keep them healthy. They are also observing how the puffins act and what they do. It would be bad if the puffins died out and only a little of them were left.

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