#1 Save a Puffin

Puffins in Maine are an amazing thing. If you get a chance to visit an area that has Puffins, dont miss em. They are fascinating birds! Here are some suggestions to help save The Puffin via Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife also Check out Project Puffin

Project Puffin Visitor Center
311 Main Street

Rockland, ME 04841

207-596-5566
  • Protect seabird nesting islands and adjacent waters from further development, especially human dwellings, fishing piers, docks, and aquaculture facilities. Review Essential Habitat maps and guidelines prior to development near roseate tern islands. Consult with a biologist from MDIFW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assist with planning.
  • Municipalities should strive to prevent development of seabird nesting islands and adjacent waters and identify these areas in comprehensive plans. Consider protecting a ¼ mile buffer around seabird nesting islands.
  • Use voluntary agreements, conservation easements, conservation tax abatements and incentives, and acquisition to protect important habitat for threatened and endangered species.
  • Stay off seabird nesting islands during the nesting season (April 1 to August 15). If visitation is approved (e.g., commercial tours to a seabird island), remain on designated paths and in blinds to minimize disturbance.
  • Keep boat activity more than 660 feet from seabird nesting islands. If birds flush from the island, you’re too close.
  • Keep all pets off islands. Do not introduce mammalian predators.
  • Locate aquaculture facilities farther than ¼ mile from seabird nesting islands.
  • Avoid overfishing and polluting nursery areas for herring, hake, and other fish stocks important as food for seabirds.
  • Do not use gill nets near seabird islands or known feeding areas.
  • Do not dump oil, litter, or waste overboard. Even small amounts of oil can kill birds. Seabirds are often injured by eating plastic particles from trash that are mistaken for food.
  • Avoid overboard discharge of fish waste or bait. Predatory gull populations have increased because of this readily available supply of food.

Puffin Facts

Atlantic Puffin
Fratercula arctica

Range: Nests E.Maine to to Newfoundland and Iceland to Ireland, UK and nw. coast of France. Winters in open waters of breeding range.
Size: 11 1/2 – 13 1/2″ long; wingspan 21-24″; weight 490.5 gr. (1 lb. 1 1/3 oz.).
Feeding habits: Dives from air or surface, swims rapidly underwater using wings like other alcids, catches small fishes, mollusks, and crustaceans, which it swallows underwater, but when feeding young, can carry up to 30 small fishes at one time, crosswise in bill owing to round tongue and slight serrations on interior of upper mandible which help it hold fishes.
Other names: Common puffin, bottle-nose, coulterneb, Labrador auk, large-billed puffin, pope, sea parrot, tammy norie.
Nesting habits: Nests in burrows, usually 1 egg, incubates 42 days (average).

* Statistics from “The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds”

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Boothbay Maine

The Atlantic Puffin is a rather small sea bird that spends most of its time at sea in the North Atlantic Ocean. They are Auks or members of the Alcidae Family of birds (alcids). The only time it usually comes ashore is to breed and raise a chick.

These are the only puffins that occur in the Atlantic. There are two species of puffins that occur in the Pacific – Horned Puffins and Tufted Puffins. They are so appealing probably because of the multi-colored bills that they display during the breeding season and have given them nicknames like “sea parrot” and “clowns of the sea”. Puffins have always been liked by people but, for a long time, for reasons other than bird watching. When the early pioneers came to the North Atlantic coast in the 1600′s, they began killing seabirds for food. As more settlers came to New England, puffins (and many other birds) were killed for their feathers. These feathers were used often as decorations in ladies’ hats! Puffins have long been hunted in some parts of their range and are a common food item in Iceland and the Faeroe Islands today.

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Puffins had nested along the Maine coast on at least 6 islands: Eastern Egg Rock, Western Egg Rock, Large Green Island, Matinicus Rock, Seal Island and Machias Seal Island. By the early 1900′s, there was only one pair of puffins left south of the Canadian border. That pair lived on Matinicus Rock, a lonely pile of rocks 22 miles off the coast in Penobscot Bay. After Matinicus Rock’s lighthouse keepers began protecting the puffins from hunters, the puffins began to come back and there are now about 150 pairs that nest there. Puffins had always remained on Machias Seal Island on the Canadian border which today supports a breeding colony of about 3,000 pairs of puffins.

Puffins never came back to 4 of the other 5 islands on their own maybe because of the large populations of gulls, especially the large, aggressive and always hungry Great Black-backed Gulls.

Back in 1973, Stephen Kress began Project Puffin to re-introduce puffins to Eastern Egg Rock in Muscongus Bay off mid-coast Maine. It took about 8 years of trips to Newfoundland to bring back puffin chicks to “transplant”. Today there are puffin breeding colonies on at least 4 of the original 6 islands off the coast of Maine: Eastern Egg Rock, Seal Island NWR (re-introduced colonies), Matinicus Rock and Machias Seal Island (natural colonies).

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The size of the puffin colonies vary greatly. According to Project Puffin’s Egg Rock Update, “By summer 2000, Egg Rock puffins were at an all-time high of 35 pairs.” By comparison, Machias Seal Island’s colony has approximately 6,000 puffins each year. I think it’s fair to point out that Eastern Egg Rock’s colony IS growing since the re-introduction program began and there ARE puffins there every breeding season. It’s just a smaller colony.

Some Important Facts…

stay-at-capn-fishs-waterfront-innPuffins are very abundant birds of the North Atlantic and have never been endangered or threatened (worldwide). There are an estimated 14 million puffins from Maine to Norway and many of the islands and coasts in between.

Hunting puffins on the Maine coastal islands probably added to the demise of some of the colonies, however there may have been natural climatic reasons also. The mid-1800′s were especially cold years here in the southernmost limit of the puffin’s range. A return to normal tempatures may have helped force the puffin range to move back further north. Some scientists feel that Machias Seal Islandis the southernmost limit of the puffin range and that any other colonies south of this point are “fringe” colonies.

Like all birds, puffins go where they want and there are occasional puffin sightings as far south as Maryland.