Puffin breeding falls as temperature rises

puffin with silver fish in its mouth

Atlantic puffin eating sand eels, a small fish that's disappearing with global warming. Rainbirder Steve Garvie

Icelandic kids in some towns grow up waiting to help guide puffin chicks distracted by city lights to the sea. This August, for the sixth year in a row, the puffins need bigger help. Global warming is pushing their favorite fish away. One town, Breidafjördur, normally a top puffin colony, only has one breeding pair.

Iceland has about 70% of the breeding population of Atlantic puffins, roughly 3 million pairs. But they seem to be sitting this season out, says biologist Erpur Snaer Hansen. A similar decline–along with starving birds–has been seen in Scottish breeding colonies, too.

Biologists blame global warming. National Geographic has been tracking the decline in puffin; biologists blame it on the disappearance of sand eels–the little fish often photographed dangling from puffin beaks. Hansen told Morgunbladid that he’s tied temperature to puffin population over the last 113 years, but this is the worst decline yet, even worse than in 1930-1960.

Katharina Hauptmann writes in Icelandic Review that for the first time every puffin hunting is banned in some of the western islands. She urges everyone to stop eating puffin, the national symbol. One in four birds in Iceland is a puffin (Fratercula arctica) Hansen says.

Iceland on the web says the best puffin watching areas are big  cliffs (Látrabjarg, Hornbjarg and in the Natural Reserve Park of Hornstrandir) and several islands near Reykjavik (the Westmann Islands, Breiðafjörður and Lundey (Puffin Island). I saw some just on a whale watching tour in Reykjavik. The Iceland experts say puffins in Hornbjarg,  Hælavíkurbjarg and Hornstrandir Natural Reserve Park aren’t as afraid of people because they aren’t hunted there.


moose Where to SEE MOOSE
pelicanpuffinhummingbird Where to SEE WEIRD BIRDS (All the interesting birds: pelicans, puffins, prairie chickens, vultures, hummingbirds)


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