Thursday, 8 July 2010

Puffin Marvelous!

There was some brilliant news reported in today's newspapers and on BBC television this morning concerning one of Britain's most popular birds the Puffin...
After a catastrophic decline in recent years, the population of the birds at England's largest colony at the Farne Islands has risen by 10% in the last 2 years.

The Puffin population rose steadily between 1970 and 1990, but a population boom between 1990 and 2000 saw the species peak at around 56,000 pairs.
Something occurred between 2003 and 2008 that sadly caused a 30% decline in these beautiful little creatures...

There were many theories to the reasons behind this dramatic fall, but nothing was conclusive.
It was feared that a shortage of food was to blame, especially the Puffins favourite the Sand eel, but these fears have now been proved to be ungrounded and there is said to be plenty of food available.
In an effort to pin-point the problem, researches fitted large numbers of Farne Island Puffins with GPS tags to monitor feeding habits.
The data collected from these tags revealed some very interesting findings...

It was thought that birds on the Island flew over 60 miles out to sea in search of food, but it was discovered that the majority (up to 75%) of the Puffins were travelling a much shorter distance of around 20 miles to an area of deep sea known as the 'Farnes Deep' to forage.

The data also showed that some birds took straight direct routes to the foraging area, while others took a much longer circular journey.

I thought the most interesting finding was regarding the Puffins diving habit...
It was thought that the bird would dive to a depth of around 5 metres in search of Sand eels, but the data revealed that the Puffins were actually reaching depths of around 25 metres.

Finally, a few Puffin facts for you to digest...

  • The Puffin stands only 12in tall.
  • Puffins spend up to 8 months per year out at sea.
  • Puffins usually live for 25-30 years, although the oldest recorded ringed bird was 37.
  • Puffins pair for life.
  • Puffins use the same burrows every year.
  • The female bird lays just one egg and both parents take turns sitting on it.
  • The Young stay in the burrow for 45 days before leaving home in the night to avoid predators.
  • A young puffin spends its first three years at sea before setting foot on land.


  1. Very interesting post Anthony and the pictures are really wonderful. In Iceland, the population has been declining for the last three years, with even no reproduction in the last two... They explain that by a lack of food as the sand-eel stock has been drastically going down too... I do not know about this year thought!

  2. Thanks for all those interesting informations about this splendid bird ! I hope the population will raise again in the next years !!
    I would love to see one of those funny ones here :)