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Seabird Success Story

ABOUT PROJECT PUFFIN

The National Audubon Society started Project Puffin in 1973 in an effort to learn how to restore puffins to historic nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine. The Project began with an attempt to restore puffins to Eastern Egg Rock in Muscongus Bay, about six miles east of Pemaquid Point.

Eastern Egg Rock Map

The restoration of puffins to Eastern Egg Rock is based on the fact that young puffins usually return to breed on the same island where they hatched. Young puffins from Great Island, Newfoundland were transplanted to Eastern Egg Rock. The young puffins were then reared in artificial sod burrows for about one month. Audubon biologists placed handfuls of vitamin-fortified fish in their burrows each day and, in effect, took the place of parent puffins. As the young puffins reached fledging age (the time when birds leave the nest),they received leg bands so they could be recognized in the future. After spending their first 2-3 years at sea, it was hoped they would return to establish a new colony at Eastern Egg Rock rather than Great Island. Because this was the first time an attempt had been made to restore a puffin colony, the outcome was unknown. Between 1973 and 1986, 954 young puffins were transplanted from Great Island to Eastern Egg Rock and 914 of these successfully fledged. A record 101 pairs of puffins nested on Eastern Egg Rock in 2008, the 35th year of the project.

Bi98 billing with mate U16 (photo by Bill Scholtz)

Life of One Puffin, Bi98

This puffin was six days old when he was transplanted from Newfoundland to Eastern Egg Rock on July 12th, 1978. He fledged on August 20th of that year. He returned to the island three times before settling in to breed on Eastern Egg Rock in 1984. His mate was another transplant from Newfoundland, EN65. They occupied burrow number 17, raising eight chicks together prior to her failure to return from sea in 1995. Bi98 kept the burrow and mated with U16, a puffin of unknown origin. They fledged five chicks together through 2002, but failed to do so in 2003-2007. Nonetheless, the pair remained together, and in 2008 when Bi98 was thirty years old and U16 at least eighteen, they again produced and fledged a chick.

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