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Running out of Puff? No chance!

Puffins Breed into old age…

What does growing old mean? If you're Puffin number EB61097 from the remote island of Sule Skerry, 35 miles off the north coast of Scotland, it means business as usual, working hard to raise yet another chick.

EB61097 is the bird's unique metal ring, fitted when it was originally caught in July 1975 by Sule Skerry Ringing Group, making their first expedition to the island. Some of the members of that original 1975 group were also present when the bird was recaptured in July this year, reacquainting themselves with an old friend. Originally ringed as an adult, at least two years old, this recent capture makes EB61097 the oldest Puffin known from over 95 years of ringing in Britain and Ireland. It is also only a year short of the world record, currently held by a bird from Iceland.

Adrian Blackburn of Sule Skerry Ringing Group commented, "The Puffin seemed to be in good health. The fact that it's been caught on the island means that it's probably attempting to raise a family, so it's showing no signs of slowing down yet. We can ring up to 6,000 Puffins in a week, and I must admit that this one didn't stand out particularly from our first visit!"Dave Budworth, also of the group, added, "The bird was actually older than two of the ringers on this summer's trip - and they looked far worse after a week on the island than the Puffin did after 34 years."

Mark Grantham, Population Biologist from the BTO Ringing Scheme, commented, "Our seabird populations are internationally important, and it's vital that we continue to ring and study these birds. In an ever-changing world, a better understanding of their movements and survival is essential. For this we rely on the hard work and dedication of volunteers such as the Sule Skerry Ringing Group."

NB Sule Skerry Ringing Group was started by Adrian Blackburn and Dave Budworth on their first visit to the island in 1975 and is made up entirely of volunteer bird ringers. Since 1975, 18 visits have been made to the island, and during this period the group has ringed 160,000 seabirds, including 125,000 Puffins (almost 50% of all the Puffins ever ringed in the UK)…. …Puffins breed along the sea borders of the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, and are a truly pelagic seabird. The coasts of Britain and Ireland are home to 600,000 Puffins, representing 10% of the world population. Population numbers are relatively stable, but birds are reliant on a diet of Sandeels.

4th July 2014