Chris Linder Photography - Science and Natural History Storytelling

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Icelandic Puffin Rally

Iceland is home to half of the world's population of Atlantic puffins. However, since 2005, complete breeding failure has decimated the colonies in the southern half of the country, including the world’s largest colony in the Westman Islands. Dr. Erpur Hansen of the South Iceland Nature Centre has been studying puffin breeding success (and failure) in a several-week-long road trip he calls the "Puffin Rally." Using a snakelike camera created by his friend, plumber and former puffin hunter Marino Sigursteinsson, Erpur and his team are able to see exactly what's happening to the chicks and eggs at the end of the 6-foot long puffin burrows. An influx of warmer water--bringing blue mackeral--appears to be the culprit. The mackeral are eating the sand eels, the puffins' preferred prey, leaving little for the puffins. With barely enough food to sustain themselves, the adults have no choice but to abandon their nests.