Wednesday, August 26, 2009

PUFFINS: BREEDING PAIR RECORDED ON TIREE

With their bright orange bills and comical faces, puffins are a firm favourite with wildlife lovers everywhere.

So, the first record of a breeding pair on the island of Tiree is a cause for celebration, and could mean that things are looking optimistic for Argyll puffins in 2009.

Puffins are summer visitors to the UK's coasts, nesting in abandoned rabbit burrows or crevices rather than on the actual cliff face itself like many other sea birds. They feed on fish, particularly sand eels, which they catch mostly through shallow surface diving and pursuit swimming underwater.

Small numbers of the birds have been seen before on Tiree at the Ceann a' Mhara cliffs, but this June was the first time a pair were seen showing nesting behaviour before being spotted with a juvenile.

John Bowler is the RSPB Scotland Officer on Tiree and monitors the site, counting the sea birds regularly throughout the season. He said: 'It was absolutely fantastic to see a pair of puffins actually attempting to nest at the cliffs, and then seeing this juvenile on the sea down below is a pretty definite sign that they've been successful.

'It's only one pair, so it's a bit premature to break out the bubbly and say that puffins are having a good year, but even a small success for a bird that is such a localized breeder is definitely important.'

Puffins are listed as an amber species, meaning that they're of an unfavourable conservation status in Europe. In the UK, our puffin populations tend to be localized, and their nesting habits also mean that the birds are vulnerable to predation by rats and mice.

Their population may also have been adversely affected by a lack of sand eels, which is thought to be responsible for the wide-ranging breeding failures among sea birds in recent years.

Source: RSPB Website

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