The puffin's distinctive bill has given it the nicknames of 'sea parrot' and 'bottle nose'. Although it looks a bit like a penguin or a parrot, it is actually related to the auk family - its close, larger relatives being razorbills and guillemots.


Puffins and Humans

On the island of St. Kilda in the North Atlantic, puffins were once used to flavour porridge! However, today they are a protected bird, although numbers have been declining since the 1960s when chemical and oil pollution of the sea killed many puffins; some traditional colonies were deserted as the numbers fell.

Puffin numbers are decreasing rapidly.  Conservationists are concerned about the overfishing of sand eels and whitebait by humans which is thought to be resulting in the starvation and death of many seabirds, including the puffin.  Climate change is also having an impact, causing more frequent and intense shifts in sea temperatures, thermal mixing and extreme weather, all of which affect their prey species of sand eels, sprats and other small fish.  As a result in October 2015 the IUCN has reclassified puffins as Endangered.

In 2018, the National Trust's 5-yearly survey of the population on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast of the UK has found that puffin numbers have fallen by 12% on average since 2013, when there were 39,962 breeding pairs on the archipelago.  The population on one of the islands, Brownsman, has reduced by 42%, raising fears that puffins could be extinct in the Farne Islands within the next 50 to 100 years.

Join the Pufferazzi by sending in a photo of any puffin from any colony that you have seen carrying food in its beak! 

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