Tufted Puffins: Sea Clowns at Risk

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Tufted Puffins: Sea Clowns at Risk

From Environmental Defense Fund

The tufted puffin has a bright and humorous appearance. With their orange bills and feet and golden feather tufts wisping behind their heads, they are sometimes called the clown of the sea.

These beautiful foot-long sea birds are "underwater fliers" more graceful thrusting through the sea than flapping in the air.

Global Warming Threats

Tufted puffins feed on small fish that are sensitive to sea surface temperatures. Scientists have observed that when sea surface temperatures rise, puffins have poorer breeding success.

A study on Triangle Island in British Columbia showed that puffin hatch dates, chick growth, and fledging success decreased with warmer sea surface temperatures.

While the global population of tufted puffins is still quite large, they are declining in southern parts of their range Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, California and Japan. Global warming is thought to be one stressful factor among others -- oil spills, gill nets, habitat deterioration, competitors and introduced mammal predators on nesting islands.

Wider Implications

Puffins may be an indicator species harbingers of more widespread ecological chaos to come.


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