This is the first critical step to determining how to save puffins and ensure they return to our coasts for years to come.
Puffins are returning to the UK’s coastlines and the RSPB is asking for members of the public to join in with its ground-breaking project, Puffarazzi, to help to find out more about our beloved seabirds.
With their colourful bills, distinctive eye markings and somewhat comical walk, puffins are a firm favourite for many people. These birds are in serious trouble, however, with their numbers plummeting in former strongholds across the UK and Europe. The species is now vulnerable to extinction.
Puffarazzi aims to find out what is causing population changes across the UK, particularly focusing on differences in food availability related to climate change. People can join the Puffarazzi by submitting photos from visits to puffin colonies in previous years where they have snapped pictures of these colourful seabirds with food in their bills. The photos help scientists learn more about what puffins are feeding their chicks, or ‘pufflings’, and how this might have changed over time.
The project first ran in 2017 asking for photos from that summer, before returning last year with the added request for images from any year which will help build a picture of how food sources might have changed over time.
The public response in the previous two years has been incredible. In 2017, 602 people joined the Puffarazzi and sent in 1,402 photos from almost 40 colonies. In 2019, 825 people joined the Puffarazzi, sending in 2,718 photos from 49 colonies.
This year the project is adapting to take coronavirus guidance into account, asking people to focus on digging through their photo albums and files at home in case there are any photos tucked away from previous visits to puffin colonies that could be of use.
The photos will help scientists identify areas where puffins are struggling to find enough nutritious fish needed to support their pufflings, with the historical photos providing an invaluable comparison of how food availability has changed over time.
Connie Tremlett, RSPB conservation scientist and manager of the project this year, said: “We’ve been bowled over by how many people have already taken part in Puffarazzi - the response so far really shows how beloved these ‘clowns of the sea’ are, and how each and every one of us can play a part in saving them.
"As puffins return to our shores, we’re once again asking people to share their photos from previous years with us. However old your photo is, as long as it has a picture of a puffin with food in its beak, and you know when and where it was taken, it will help.
“Those who join the Puffarazzi are filling key gaps in our knowledge, helping us to understand what threats are facing these little seabirds. This is the first critical step to determining how to save them and ensure they return to our coasts for years to come.”
This article is based on a press release from the RSPB.