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 it 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. That may be because their key food source, herring and hake, are leaving for cooler waters.

Audubon maintains three web cameras in key puffin habitats in Maine. Volunteers are being asked to watch the puffins feed and answer questions about their feeding behavior.

From 2007-2011, 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. It's too early to tell about this year.

Almost all of Maine's puffin population nests on three islands Matinicus Rock, Eastern Egg Rock, and Seal Island. Scientists 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.

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 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 (16)
  • tcastleberry
    8/13/2014 - 01:34 p.m.

    Honestly its sad that people won't help these poor birds. If I lived closer to Maine I would help these birds tremendously. I thought this story was interesting because for once it wasn't about people. It was good to me that people are helping these poor birds. I just hate that some people don't care and just let them die.

  • KathyBuns
    8/14/2014 - 01:33 p.m.

    The good thing about this- is that people are actually coming together to help out these helpless penguins. Its interesting that the number of flying puffin penguins have rapidly decreased in the last few years. Its so sad to see these penguins suffering, and its not even their fault.

  • ChiT-Bre
    8/22/2014 - 11:43 a.m.

    I think Puffins prefer islands because islands are surrounded by water, and the fish that they eat; herring and hake live near the islands. I wonder if they can save the Puffins in time and how long until they might become extinct?

  • soniav-Koc
    9/10/2014 - 02:18 a.m.

    These are some of the coolest birds in the world, not only because their beaks take up their entire face, but because they actually look like they're displaying emotion (though they probably aren't). If my kids never got to see one because no one cared enough to save them, I'd be pretty mad.

  • annasusan
    9/15/2014 - 01:11 p.m.

    Puffins probably prefer islands because they are usually more isolated and not as many animals. I say this because with less animals, there's less preditors to try to eat them.

  • joemst31234asdf
    9/16/2014 - 01:15 p.m.

    They prefer islands because it is safer and it is easier to mate and hang out and their young will be more safe .

  • kevinR75
    9/16/2014 - 02:13 p.m.

    science. I think that the puffins are really cool and deserve a home. We shod take care of them because there are not a lot left in the world and they are so cool. The puffins deserve more than what they have, like better fish and we should get theme and put them in a home. The puffins have Ben running out and if we don't take care they be ex tint. We can not bring them back when they are gone and that will be a loss.
    CTC Why do puffins prefer islands? The puffins prefer island because they spend most of there life at sea and because they eat a lot of fish, and need to train the baby as well.

  • donovan p 5
    9/16/2014 - 11:05 p.m.

    Science.
    This article states how the Puffin population is declining. They say "their main food source, Herring and Hake, are leaving for cooler waters". Now only butter-fish are left. "But those fish are too big for the chicks to eat, and many starve and die," the article states. With their declining food the chicks are also declining. now, as the article says, "the Audubon society wants bird lovers to contribute to a project". Hopefully we can save the Puffins.


    I think Puffins prefer islands because islands isolate the chicks and eggs from some predators. the Island are also possibly disturbed rarely, making a calm environment. The islands possibly had a nice food source until now.

  • Samantha3077
    10/16/2014 - 12:11 p.m.

    Most people would say put the puffins in zoos, but i think that's animal abuse. I think that thew should trap some herring and hake in the waters where the puffins are at and keep stocking that part of the sea/ocean. I don't care if the fish die because they can make fish farms.

  • SabrinaD3
    10/16/2014 - 10:10 p.m.

    Puffin populations have been dropping drastically. Scientists believe this is due to the lack of food. Puffins diets usually consist of herring and hake, but these fish have begun moving to cooler waters. Puffins have begun eating butterfish in place of herring and hake, this is not a problem for adult puffins, but for the young it acts as a huge issue. Butterfish are much larger than herring and hake, so young puffins cannot eat the butterfish, and many starve. Scientists are urging people to contribute research to help solve the puffin dilemma.
    This puffin problem is very unfortunate. I really hope that puffins are able to adapt to their new diet or people can help puffins relocate to regions where there is much more food suitable for their young. I am really glad people are making an effort to help the puffins. I want to help save the puffin by helping with research, like many others already have.

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