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Audubon wants you to help save puffins

Atlantic puffins congregate near their burrows on Eastern Egg Rock, a small island off the coast of Maine. There are about 1,000 pairs of puffins, known for their multicolored beaks, in Maine. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

Wanted: puffinologists. No experience necessary.

The Audubon Society wants bird lovers to contribute research to a project scientists hope will help save Atlantic puffins from starvation in Maine.

There are about 1,000 pairs of the seabirds, known for their multicolored beaks, in Maine. Audubon says the number of puffin fledgling chicks has declined in the past two years, possibly because the two fish they eat, herring and hake, are leaving for cooler waters. Puffins are on the state’s threatened species list.

Audubon has three webcams in Maine. Volunteers are being asked to use them to watch the puffins feed and answer questions about their feeding behavior, said Steve Kress, director of the National Audubon Society’s seabird restoration program.

From 2007 through 2011, Kress said that 77 percent of puffin pairs on Maine’s Seal Island produced fledglings, or birds that are able to fly. The number declined to 31 percent in 2012 and 10 percent in 2013. And while 2014 “appears to be better,” he said, it’s too early to tell.

A puffin has a meal for its chicks on Eastern Egg Rock. The Audubon Society wants bird lovers to help figure out why puffins numbers are declining. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

Kress and others believe the decline in fledged puffin chicks is tied to rising water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine.

“This is a citizen science project, hoping to advance the science as well as entertain the viewers,” Kress said. “There are some questions that can be better answered through lots of people viewing.”

— Associated Press

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