Where have all the puffins gone?
Source: Anthony Rimel, Cannon Beach Gazette
Over the Independence Day holiday the Friends of Haystack Rock celebrated with the “Great Cannon Beach Puffin Watch,” a three-day event where visitors watched puffins and other birds during the peak of nesting season. While tufted puffins were very visible on Haystack Rock during the celebration, the number of the birds has declined from last year.
Tim Holloway, a retired biology teacher who is a volunteer bird surveyor for the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the data he has collected has not yet been analyzed, but the number of birds is down.
“It’s definitely fewer birds,” said Holloway.
Holloway spends 20 hours a week collecting data at Haystack Rock and he said the largest number of tufted puffins he has identified on the rock at one time was 25. Two years ago there were 150 tufted puffins nesting on the rock during breeding season.
“We’re not anywhere close to that,” he said.
Nalla Cardillo, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program coordinator, said visitors can still see puffins at Haystack Rock without too much trouble, but agreed that the number of tufted puffins that are on the rock seems to be down from past years
Cardillo said the decline in puffins may be associated with the mass die off earlier this year, when dozens of dead seabirds washed ashore. She said the decline in sea birds may be part of natural cyclical patterns.
However, Shawn Stephensen, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the drop in puffin numbers is probably a result of both natural fluctuations and a long-term decline for seabirds off the Oregon coast.
“There are multiple seabird species that are in decline along the Oregon coast,” he said.
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