The puffins are often spotted along the coast of Maine in the spring and summer months, but the colourful birds take off for open sea in autumn. The mystery of their ultimate destination has finally been solved.
Stephen Kress, director of the Audubon Seabird Restoration Program and founder of Project Puffin, said that the puffins spend most of their time at sea, and only about four months on land.
To gather data on the puffins, scientists placed nineteen geolocators on the birds’ legs. They were able to find two different locations where the puffins gathered offshore. Based on the data, the puffins first swam north to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada. Then, the birds went to a location that was approximately two hundred miles (about 321 km) southeast of Cape Cod (an independent land mass separated from the mainland by the Cape Cod Canal).
Puffins are stocky, short-winged and short-tailed seabirds with brightly coloured beaks and predominantly black or black and white plumage. Althoch their look more similar to penguins, they are in fact a cousin of the auk – a bird of the family Alcidae.
Bird enthusiasts, as well as conventional tourists, often travel to Maine to see the puffins. The birds’ disappearance in autumn has baffled many visitors.
The scientists said that be new data will be used to ensure conservation efforts for the puffins’ survival, which have been listed as threatened and are currently declining in numbers.
Mr. Kress stated that the seabirds face several threats, such as climate change, offshore wind, and commercial fishing, which is why data on their wintering locations is very important.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) – an international organization working in the field of nature conservation – reported that there are about ten million individual puffins worldwide. Approximately one thousand puffin pairs come to Maine in the summer.
In the mid-19th century, the puffin population in Maine almost disappeared due to egg collectors. Thankfully, after more than forty years of conservation, the population has rebounded, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
To better understand the puffins’ travels, scientists will attach GPS (Global Positioning System) locators to the birds next summer.
Image Source: sandiegouniontrib