Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Decline of puffin population is blamed on fish dearth in North Sea

An unexpected decline in puffin numbers on one of their most successful breeding colonies has raised fears that the birds are the victims of a North Sea fish famine.

To the puzzlement of ornithologists, thousands of puffins have vanished from the Isle of May, in the Firth of Forth, in Scotland.

The population on May had been rising steadily for the past 50 years and ornithologists had expected that the island would host 100,000 pairs this year. But when they carried out five-yearly count in April they discovered that the population had dropped from 69,300 pairs in 2003 to 41,000 this year.

Mike Harris, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), said that the most likely explanation for the drop was that the adult birds were starving to death during the winter.

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