Snap up the chance to save the puffin

Harry Bellew

Saturday 1 July 2017

• Puffin numbers have plummeted in recent years with scientists estimating more than half the population will disappear within the next generation.
• Warming seas, caused by climate change, is impacting puffins' food supply which is thought to be one of the main threats to their survival.
• Puffin experts at the RSPB are asking members of the public to play a pivotal role in saving the puffin by sharing their images of the charismatic seabird feeding their chicks.
• By combining the latest technology and citizen science RSPB scientists hope to uncover more about what puffins feed their chicks, their foraging habits and how their numbers are changing.

This summer scientists from the RSPB are asking members of the public to play a pivotal role in helping to save UK puffins by becoming members of the 'Puffarazzi' and snapping images of the unmistakable seabird to help scientists discover more about what they feed their chicks.

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

1. Atlantic puffins are classed as "vulnerable" by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (see here). Birdlife International estimates the species will decline by between 50-70% by 2065 (see here).

2. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

3. Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. www.hlf.org.uk Follow us on Facebook HLFScotland and Twitter @HLFScotland

Tagged with: Country: England Country: UK Topic: Birds and wildlife Topic: Conservation Topic: Marine and water Topic: Science Topic: Species conservation