By photographing puffins carrying fish in their bills for their chicks visitors to colonies across the country throughout June and July will be able to play an important role in helping to stop the decline of this much loved seabird. Once uploaded to the Project Puffin webpage, RSPB scientists will analyse the photos and identify the fish to build up a better picture of what puffins in the UK and Ireland are feeding their chicks, and perhaps learning more about why some colonies are thriving whilst others continue to struggle.
For years UK coastlines have come alive with the sight, sounds and smell of thousands of puffins raising their chicks, known as pufflings. With their colourful bills and distinctive eye markings people from around the world visit sites such as Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire, Rathlin Island in N Ireland and Lunga, off the Isle of Mull to witness the bustling colonies.
However, in recent year's puffin numbers have plummeted across the UK and Europe, with warming seas and shifting ocean currents having a negative impact on puffin fish supply, thought to be one of the main threats to their survival. Scientists estimate that their populations could decline by more than half in the next forty years and have recently been classed as vulnerable to global extinction.
Ellie Owen, RSPB Conservation Scientist leading on Project Puffin, said: "Everyone can identify a puffin, with their colour bills and unique eye markings. Their distinctive features make them more familiar than even some garden birds, but sadly our puffin population is in trouble, their numbers have dropped dramatically across key parts of their range in recent years and are in desperate need of our help.
"We are working hard to reverse these declines and now everyone can play a pivotal role to helping to save UK puffins. The 'Puffarazzi' will help us find out more about what puffins feed their chicks allowing us to better understand of why some colonies are thriving while others continue to struggle. We know that people love puffins and this project gives everybody the opportunity to be part of the work to help save them."
'Puffarazzi' is a part of Project Puffin, which launched earlier this year with support from Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland. The project aims to find out more about what puffins feed their chicks, where they go to find food and how their numbers are changing by combining the latest technology with citizen science.
Throughout the summer RSPB scientists will be GPS tracking puffins at two sites in Scotland (The Shiants and Shetland) to find out where the seabirds go to feed and carrying out a puffin census at key colonies, some of which have not been counted in more than a decade.
For more information about Project Puffin, where you can find puffins around UK coastlines and how you can become a member of the 'Puffarazzi', visit www.rspb.org.uk/projectpuffin
Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018