British Puffins caught up in Biscay storms

01 Feb 2014 | No. 2014-11

The sight of a Puffin, beak full of sandeels, might be a little harder to come by this summer as they struggle to survive the recent storms that have wracked the Bay of Biscay.

The sight of a Puffin, beak full of sandeels, might be a
little harder to come by this summer

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have received a record number of reports of Puffins, wearing uniquely-numbered metal rings, being washed up dead on the coasts of France and Spain.

In a normal winter, the BTO would expect two or three ringed Puffins to be found in France and Spain, but during the last few weeks, over 35 have been reported. The previous highest number of ringed birds found was back in 1979 when 17 dead Puffins were reported.

It is well known that British Puffins head out into the Atlantic for the winter months, riding out the worst that the weather can throw at them.  As the winter progresses, our Puffins make their way into the Bay of Biscay before heading back to their breeding colonies and the burrows that they used the previous summer. Birds found in this current wreck have come from colonies in west Wales, northern Scotland, Orkney and Shetland.

Mark Grantham, Ringing Officer at the BTO, commented, “Up until the last couple of weeks it seemed that our Puffins might have survived the worst of the winter. However, from the reports of ringed birds that are being washed-up on the Biscay beaches it would seem that the recent storms were just too much for many of the birds.“

He added, “It is still early days and the number of ringed birds found is likely to rise further, but we must remember that if over 35 ringed birds have been found, many un-ringed birds must have been affected too.”

Bird ringing in the UK is organised by the British Trust for Ornithology and is carried out by licensed volunteers, who ring over a million birds of a wide variety of different species every year. It is the information received from these rings, when found and reported to the BTO, that enables scientists at the Trust to chart events such as this.

For more information and to report a ring number to the BTO, please visit

Notes for Editors

  1. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.
  2. Ringing aims to understand what is happening to birds in the places they live and how this affects population increases and decreases, this knowledge is vital for conservation. It also gives information on the movements individual birds make and how long many live for. You can help by looking out for ringed birds and reporting them.

    The British and Irish Ringing Scheme is organised by the BTO. Around 1,000,000 birds are ringed in Britain and Ireland each year by over 2,600 trained ringers, most of whom are volunteers. The BTO Ringing Scheme is funded by a partnership of the British Trust for Ornithology, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (on behalf of: Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage), The National Parks and Wildlife Service (Ireland) and the ringers themselves.

Contact Details

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Mark Grantham
(BTO Ringing Officer)

Office: 07818 497470
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: mark.grantham [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2014-11

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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