Puffin, Isle of May


The puffin is one of the commonest seabirds in northern Europe. While the largest breeding populations are found in Iceland and Norway, the British Isles hold c. 10 per cent of the worlds puffins.

Main threats to puffins

The puffin is included on the Red list of UK Birds of Conservation Concern after being listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. It is very vulnerable to adverse changes in the environment because its breeding population is concentrated on a small number of sites. There have also been large population declines over much of its European range.

The main threat to puffins is the changes in distribution and numbers of small fish, while ground predators (eg rat, mink, cat) introduced to breeding colonies and pollution are also serious hazards.

For instance, oil leaked from the Torrey Canyon in 1967 killed 85 per cent of the French puffins. Because of their low reproductive rate, puffins can take decades to recover from this kind of incident.

Because the puffin is so widespread, the only realistic conservation measures are sustainable exploitation of the seas, a reduction in incidence of marine pollution, and preventing ground predators reaching nesting colonies.

Puffins, Isle of scilly