An Atlantic Puffin coming in for a landing. (© Steve Garvie)
Atlantic Puffins disappeared from Maine’s Muscongus Bay for more than 100 years when researchers reintroduced six chicks. They were expected to return to the spot where they fledged but scientists found they needed a little coaxing from an unexpected source- puffin decoys. Mary McCann reports.
CURWOOD: Of all sea-birds, one of the most charming and funny must be the puffin, with its black and white plumage and its amazing bright beak. But Atlantic puffins had disappeared from some of their traditional range, until an enterprising scientist who loved the birds had an idea.
Here's Mary McCann with BirdNote®.
[WAVES BREAKING ON SHORE]
MCCANN: They had been gone from the island for a hundred years. But in 1973 Dr. Stephen Kress reintroduced six Atlantic Puffin chicks to Eastern Egg Rock, an island in Maine’s Muscongus Bay. He nurtured them by leaving fish in their underground burrows. A few weeks later, the birds fledged, departing at night for the open sea. Knowing puffins return to the spot where they fledge, he and his team waited. For four years, no puffins returned. Here’s Dr. Kress:
KRESS: So in 1977, I began trying to think more like a puffin. And I began to try to imagine what it must be like for a puffin that would head off to sea, come back, and find no other puffins at the island. And of course there hadn’t been any other puffins for 100 years, so what would this puffin think? Would it even take a chance about coming ashore? And I began to realize that normally a young puffin coming home would find other puffins. It would be attracted to them…perhaps interact with them, and become comfortable at that location. And I was concerned that maybe some of my puffins were coming back but not coming ashore, and that’s when I decided that I would try to put out some decoys.
MCCANN: The decoys worked. Now the island, with much continuing work by Dr. Kress and Project Puffin, is home to more than 100 nesting pairs.
I’m Mary McCann
[CALLS OF ATLANTIC PUFFIN ADULT AND THE PIPING OF YOUNG]
CURWOOD: There are photos at our website, LOE.org.
[Interview by Todd & Chris Peterson
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call (groan) of Atlantic Puffin adult with piping of young  recorded in nest burrow by W.W.H. Gunn.
Wave action feature is Nature Essentials SFX #21 recorded by Gordon Hempton of QuietPlanet.com. Ambient waves recorded by C. Peterson at Hog Island, Maine.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org November 2013 Narrator: Mary McCann]
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.