Friday, September 9, 2016

Until the next time we see them - Tufted Puffins

This summer, a U.S.F.W.S. volunteer closely monitored the iconic tufted puffins who call Haystack Rock their breeding ground home.

The puffins use this space as their breeding ground, because they prefer to stay close to the ocean shore. Their survival is dependent upon the sea, where they catch the food that they eat and feed their young. 

 
Puffins eat small fish and squid. They can hold several fish at a time in their large bill, which allows them to transport the fish back to their burrow to feed their chick. Recent studies on Atlantic puffins attribute the successful fledgling, and long term survival of chicks to an adequate food source. When fish populations decline, so do the puffin populations.  

These puffins lay their egg 2-6 feet deep in a burrow. Near the top of Haystack Rock, on the grassy slope. The north side is shielded from the strong south winds. They dig out the soil with their large, shovel like bill, and lay one single white egg. Since it is so deep in the burrow, out of sight of predators, the egg doesn't need much camouflage. 

Puffins are auklets, they are related to the pigeon guillemot and common murre. They are black, football shaped birds with a heavy orange bill. You can spot them flapping their wings furiously, flying in circles out and back to the rock. The reason they are so clumsy on land is because they are built to be out at sea. The murres look just like the puffins when flying, except that they have a while belly and sharp black beak. They look like small penguins.


Murre (left) Puffin (right)

The tufted puffins are seen at Haystack Rock from April - August. While not breeding, the they spend much of their lives up to 60 miles off-shore. They have nothing to land on out there. So, they float on top of the ocean surface and dive up to 200 feet deep. Talk about some incredible survival skills! Many of them are headed back out to sea now. You may spot some stragglers through September if you are lucky.

We received this report on September 3rd from Tim, the U.S.F.W.S. Volunteer who has been monitoring the puffins: "Not a puffin in sight on this gorgeous morning at Haystack rock Cannon Beach. Other observers report that there were several here a week or more ago but that their numbers quickly dwindled. It has been a great season and we will hope for good puffling viability and continued improvement with this population. Thanks for the opportunity to be part of this important project" 
  
We wish the tufted puffins a safe journey. We hope they have a lot of squid and food sources for the adults and their chicks. We will be waiting to welcome them back and to celebrate their return.


1 comment :

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