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The National Audubon Society started Project Puffin in 1973 in an effort to learn how to restore puffins to historic nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine. The Project began with an attempt to restore puffins to Eastern Egg Rock in Muscongus Bay, about six miles east of Pemaquid Point. The colony has since increased to 101 pairs as of 2008.
Techniques such as gull and vegetation control, use of tern decoys, and tape recordings of courtship sounds broadcast from the islands are helping to restore colonies. These efforts are so successful, that in recent years, Eastern Egg Rock has become the largest Maine colony of the endangered Roseate Tern. These techniques have also helped to protect the terns at Matinicus Rock and establish new tern colonies at Seal Island, Stratton Island (Saco Bay), Jenny Island (Casco Bay), and Pond Island (Kennebec River), and Outer Green Island. These methods are also proving useful for helping endangered seabirds in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador (Dark-rumped Petrels), California (Common Murres) and Japan (Short-tailed Albatross). At least 40 seabird species in 12 countries have benefited from seabird restoration techniques developed by Project Puffin.
Restoration of seabird colonies takes years of persistent work, since so many factors influencing success are beyond the control of researchers. For example, young puffins must find ample food and clean waters while avoiding predators. Unfortunately, oil spills, depleted fish stocks, entanglement in fishing nets and predation by gulls decrease the number of surviving birds. Considering these odds, the establishment of new puffin and tern colonies through active management is especially exciting.
Project Puffin has a year round staff of seven which increases to about fifty during the seabird breeding season in spring and summer, including interns and volunteers.
- Janine Parziale
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