From: PETER BAKER/ecoRI News contributor
Published August 29, 2014 03:36 PM

Puffins in New England

I can't help but smile when I see a puffin, and I know I'm not alone. Thousands of people board tour boats each summer in Maine to get a glimpse of these charming seabirds with their tuxedo plumage and rainbow beaks.

But what's in those beaks is serious business. The forage fish that puffin parents bring back to their island nests mean the difference between life and death for the chicks, and the past few years offer stark evidence of what happens when those fish become scarce.

We're fortunate to have puffins in New England, thanks in large part to Steve Kress of the National Audubon Society who conceived Project Puffin four decades ago to re-establish nesting colonies on some islands in the Gulf of Maine. Each summer, Kress and his dedicated interns closely monitor puffins, their diets and their nesting success - the percentage of puffin pairs whose chicks fledge.

Kress recently said that after years of steady breeding success, the number of new puffins emerging from nests plummeted alarmingly in 2012 and 2013. Nesting success dropped from about 77 percent to just 10 percent, he said.

Atlantic Puffin image via Shutterstock.

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