Introducing Puffins to Copeland
Puffins are vulnerable as a breeding species in Northern Ireland because they only breed on Rathlin Island and the Gobbins, Co Antrim. They have declined by 56% on Rathlin since 1999. Puffins benefit from a breeding location that is free from rats, cats, mink, ferrets and other ground predators – this is the case on the Copeland Islands, but not so at their other breeding sites. Copeland also provides a location where human disturbance can be minimised.
BTO N.I. has been working with Copeland Bird Observatory and Natural Copeland to introduce Puffins as a breeding species on Lighthouse Island. They are not known to have bred there in the past, but they have occasionally prospected off Copeland, usually sitting on the sea near the shore, and only very rarely coming ashore.
Rather late in the breeding season, during the second half of May 2012, we deployed 50 decoy Puffins plus a custom made solar powered acoustic attraction system. Within a week eight Puffins were landing near the decoys, and within 3 weeks up to 50 Puffins were investigating the site. These birds stayed until late July.
In mid-March 2013 the Puffin decoys and acoustic system were deployed again. The hope is that Puffins will be attracted early in the breeding season and that some may attempt to breed. If successful, not only will this species have been attracted to a safe breeding location, but a boost will have been given to the local economy in Donaghadee, Co Down, where boatmen will be able to run ‘Puffin and Seal’ trips to the islands.
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