Atlantic Puffins – a surefire hit for wildlife lovers. Skomer Island, off the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales, is a great location to see these poster boys of British birds. They live at sea for most of the year but spend the spring and summer ashore in breeding colonies. Populations are declining quickly due to predation by invasive species, pollution, food shortages caused by the depletion of fisheries and deaths from getting caught in fishing nets (http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22694927/0).
When I visited the weather was brilliant – sunny but with with intermittent light cloud cover avoiding any harsh shadows. In this first image the puffin had emerged from it’s burrow and was waiting to fly off.
Puffins can fly at up to 55 mph and the birds whizzed past like missiles, with wings whirring at 400 times per minutes, dodging attacks from gulls. Catching them in flight was a frustrating and addictive challenge!
Puffins have small barbs in their bills which allow them to hold several small fish at a time and bring more food at a time back to their chick. It also means they don’t have to swallow and regurgitate the food for their young. In this next image the bird had landed on the cliff and quickly scuttled into the vegetation with a catch of sand eels. He then looked around for a few seconds to get his bearings before heading for his burrow.
A few random facts:
- COMMON NAME: Atlantic Puffin
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Fratercula arctica
- DIET: Small fish (sand eels, herring)
- AVERAGE LIFE SPAN: 20 or more years
- SIZE: 10 in
- WEIGHT: 17.5 oz
- DIVING DEPTH: 200 feet
- IUCN RED LIST STATUS: Vulnerable