Islanders help lost puffins out to sea

01.09.2020 - 16:22
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 Mynd: Sigurbjörg Sæunn Guðmundsdót - Aðsend mynd
The puffling rescue season is in full swing on the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago and locals have so far helped over 5,000 of the fledgling puffins on their way to the sea. Pufflings often get confused by street lights and end up in the islands’ town centre.

Puffling season is the favourite time of year for many islanders as, when August draws to a close, the young seabirds leave their nest holes and head out to sea.

They take flight as it is getting dark in the evening, and while most of them end up in the sea, a great many get confused and head for the lights, ending up on asphalt instead of salty water. That’s when the quick reaction of humans becomes important. 

Without intervention, the young birds are easy prey for cats and cars alike, though the biggest risk is simply that they never find their way to the sea. 

People roam all over the town, collecting pufflings together in cardboard boxes, where they are allowed to rest overnight. Before releasing them to the sea the following morning, people are asked to register each bird with Pysjueftirlitið (Puffling Monitoring). 

This year, thanks to the pandemic, that is all taking place online through the website

Visitors to the website are asked to register each puffling’s weight for the purpose of scientific research. Recent years have seen the average weight of fledgling pufflings go down and their physical condition seem weaker than in previous years.  

According to data so far, this year’s pufflings seem stronger than last year’s. A lot of pufflings last year required a period of rehabilitation at the Pysjueftirlitið ‘hospital’ but most this year are enthusiastic to leave land as soon as they are shown the sea. 

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager
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