With their colourful bills and endearing walk, puffins are among the most iconic and popular birds in the UK.
Despite this, puffins are in serious trouble as their numbers are plummeting in former strongholds in the UK and Europe. The species is now classed as vulnerable to extinction.
But there is a way members of the public can help- by joining the Puffarazzi and sending in photographs from your visits to puffin colonies.
Scientists need photos of these colourful seabirds with fish in their bills to help them learn more about what adult puffins are feeding their chicks, known as pufflings, and investigate how food shortages may be contributing to the birds’ dwindling numbers.
The public response to the first appeal in 2017 was incredible; 602 people joined the Puffarazzi and sent in 1,402 photos from almost 40 colonies.
Ellie Owen, who is leading the project said: “We’re so excited that Puffarazzi is back. The response last time was overwhelming and it’s thanks to this success we’ve expanded the project.
“Puffins are facing a bleak future and we want to change that, which is why we need to learn more about how puffin food stocks have changed over the years.
“We’re asking you to dig around in your photo albums and digital files and to send us any applicable photos you have, however old they are. However big or small the fish in the photo is it will be really useful for us.
“Anyone can join the Puffarazzi – back in 2017 our youngest volunteer was just 11 years old.”
Not only did the photos from 2017 help scientists identify areas where puffins are struggling to find large, nutritious fish vital to pufflings but they also revealed concerning variations around the UK.
Photos from any year are welcomed (provided the date and location of the photo is known) and will help scientists track how food sources have changed over time.
Even pre-digital images can be submitted at the Project Puffin Website
There is also advice on what scientific information the images need to capture.
Ellie added: “We know that many people have been inspired by the plight of these plucky little seabirds and want to help them.
“By becoming part of the Puffarazzi you’ll be filling in key knowledge gaps currently holding puffin conservation efforts back and will help shape future advice for government on how best to safeguard puffins.”
Photographers can avoid disturbing the birds by:
- Spending no more than a few moments photographing a puffin
- Keeping movements and noise to a minimum
- Not walking near or over puffin burrows
- Keeping about five metres away from the birds at all times