Puffin Chicks In Gulf Of Maine’s Largest Colony Starve At Record Rate

"A drop in the food supply this summer, possibly tied to warmer Gulf of Maine waters, leads to the worst survival rate ever tracked on Machias Seal Island."

"Machias Seal Island, home of the largest puffin colony in the Gulf of Maine, has had the worst breeding season ever recorded, with the vast majority of chicks starving to death in their burrows.

The disaster followed a sudden drop in the puffins’ food supply – certain small fish – in early July, said Tony Diamond, director of the Atlantic Laboratory for Avian Research at the University of New Brunswick, who oversees research on the island’s seabirds. Adult puffins fly out to catch fish to feed their fledglings, which remain behind in burrows, but for the remainder of July and August the parents were returning with little in their beaks, Diamond said.

In a typical year, 60 percent of the puffin nests with eggs produce chicks that fly off in late summer to begin their life at sea. This year the number was only 12 percent – 320 chicks – the worst result since researchers began monitoring the colony in 1995."

Colin Woodard reports for the Portland Press Herald August 23, 2016.

Source: Portland Press Herald, 08/24/2016