Remote Icelandic community fights to save pufflings with puffin patrols

Residents of Heimaey, an island off the coast of Iceland, form puffin patrols to rescue chicks

13 August 2022

A remote Icelandic community is fighting to save puffin chicks.

Every year residents of Heimaey, an island off the coast of Iceland, form puffin patrols to rescue chicks, known as pufflings.

Kolbrun Sol Ingolfsdottir, one of the town’s residents, told the PA news agency that she has been going on puffin patrols since she was a little girl.

“I’ve been on puffin patrols since I was maybe five years old,” she said.

“And it’s so fun going now with my own children.”

However, she said that the puffin population has been in decline for the past couple of years.

“When I was a little girl, we would maybe find 40-50 pufflings in one hour,” she said.

“That was a lot of fun, (back) then there were a lot of puffins, but it has gone down slowly now for a couple of years.”

Puffins in Iceland
Local children, out on ‘Pysjueftirlitio’ (Puffing patrol) (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Sea Life Trust Puffin Rescue Centre rehabilitates and cleans any injured or oiled pufflings at the rescue centre in Heimaey.

Audrey Padgett, general manager at the centre, said: “The last two years, we saw more than 7,000 baby birds rescued and released each year.

“And last year we helped release about 31 of them that had been oiled or injured.”

Puffins in Iceland
A rescued puffin is fed in the Sea Life Trust Puffin Rescue Centre (Aaron Chown/PA)

She added that they had seen worrying conditions this year.

She said: “This year though we’re seeing some really worrying conditions on this island in particular.

“We’re only seeing about 35% of the burrows have chicks in them, and a very low nesting rate.

“So the scientists who are studying them are trying to figure out what might be going on. Is it changing ocean temperature, availability of food, avian flu, anything like that that could be affecting these birds?

“And so it’s more important than ever that we help any of those baby pufflings get out to the sea that we can.”

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