Iceland’s puffin stock in crisis

If the patterns of recent years continue, Iceland’s Westman Islands could lose their famous puffin colony altogether. The reason is a collapse in the sand eel population.

Iceland has the largest number of puffins anywhere in the world, and most of those birds are to be found on the Westman Islands. The young puffins start leaving their nests for the first time at the beginning of August each year and many receive a helping hand from local children who remove the bewildered birds from the centre of town and release them at the coast.

Biologist Erpur Snaer Hansen told Visir.is that there are almost no pufflings at all this year on the Westman Islands. “We looked into a hundred nest holes and they were all empty. There has never been so few,” Hansen said. In recent years, there have been birds in 10-20 percent of the nest holes; bit this year there are almost none.

Hansen says that there are other examples of puffin colonies disappearing. In Norway it happened in 1979. He believes there are many parallels between what is happening in the Westman Islands and what happened in Norway.

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