Endangered species

RSPB asks public to help document puffins

written by Oceanographic Staff

After a successful run in 2017, the RSPB has revived it’s Puffarazzi project that enlists the help of the public in order to find out more about these vulnerable seabirds.

For this campaign, the RSPB are asking for photographs of puffins with fish in their bills in order to help scientists learn more about what these colourful seabirds are eating and feeding their chicks.

Now classed as vulnerable to extinction, the project looks to discover the reason why there is a UK-wide decline of puffins.

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“We’re so excited that Puffarazzi is back. The response last time was overwhelming and it’s thanks to this success that we’ve expanded the project,” said Dr Ellie Owen, who is leading 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.”

Scientists are concerned that global warming is at the heart of the problem. These birds have evolved to catch specific species of fish – such as sand eels, herring, hake and capelin – in cooler temperatures. The puffins’ main food sources are thought to be moving north to cooler waters due to rising sea temperatures, meaning there are less fish available closer to home. With 80% of UK puffins residing in Scotland and one in ten of the global population coming from the UK, it is paramount these nations take responsibility for their survival.

rsbp-project-puffins-photography-nature

In 2017, 602 people sent in 1,402 photos of the seabirds from almost 40 colonies. This year, the project is welcoming historical submissions too.

“We know that many people have been inspired by the plight of these plucky little seabirds and want to help them,” added Dr Owen. “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.”

Puffins often live 20 years or more and only lay one egg a year. They tend to keep the same mate each season and return to the same burrow every year. They are sensitive and shy, so head to the Project Puffin website for some puffin photography guidelines.

Photographs by Sarah Kilian, Alex Makarov and Sharon Watters.

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