Puffin under threat, says birdwatch body


THE PUFFIN, a summer visitor to Ireland’s coastline, is coming under threat from climate change and predators invading its coastal nesting areas.

It has been estimated to have a population of 40,000 but Birdwatch Ireland now fears the bird is coming under increasing pressure from rats preying on its chicks and eggs. The birds build their nests in underground burrows. Puffins are on the amber endangered species list for Ireland as 50 per cent exist in just 10 locations.

Steve Newton, a senior conservation officer with Birdwatch Ireland, who has studied puffins extensively, says there are a number of new dangers to the bird’s survival in Ireland.

“Brown rats are a serious issue at the eastern colonies of Lambay, Ireland’s Eye and Great Saltee. They are almost certainly pegging the population back.

“An equally worrying development has occurred at some west coast colonies where the American mink has been discovered on Puffin Island and Great Blasket Island. Puffins will be vulnerable to depredation by this voracious, non-native mammal,” he said.

Mr Newton said an increase in climate temperatures means many forms of plankton are disappearing from Irish waters. In turn, this means the puffin’s food sources of fish are disappearing.