Locals urged to help save lost pufflings

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Young birds can become confused after they leave their burrows on the Firth of Forth. 

5th August 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Residents of Fife and East Lothian are being asked to look out for young puffins who might have become lost after leaving their burrows.

Every summer, pufflings are rescued from a range of tight spots along the Firth of Forth coastline, including underneath cars and plant pots – and, in one case, a Portaloo on the Isle of May.

By reporting any unusual sightings of the small grey chicks, residents and visitors to the area can play a vital role in helping puffin populations.

Once reported, the team from the Scottish SPCA or the Scottish Seabird Centre can collect the pufflings and release them in safer areas, away from known predators.

The puffin is red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as it is globally vulnerable and declining in numbers. There are around 2600 apparently occupied puffin burrows on Craigleith and around 55,000 in total on islands in the Forth, with two adults and one puffling for each successful burrow nest.

Scottish Seabird Centre boat guide, James Leyden, said: “Puffins and their pufflings are now leaving their burrows not only on the Isle of May and other islands in the Firth of Forth. After leaving their burrows some pufflings can become disorientated by lights from the mainland. Their first ever flight may see them flying into town and seeking somewhere dark to hide from predators often underneath cars and under plants in gardens.

“When we’re notified of their misadventures, we carefully collect the pufflings and take them out to sea and release them, well away from the islands and especially the predator gulls. They then typically swim off into the North Sea where they will live for the next three years.”

Anyone who spots a puffling is asked to immediately alert the Scottish Seabird Centre on 01620 890202 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.

Mr Leyden added: “It is important to note that pufflings look completely different from their adult counterparts. People often don’t realise what they can see is a puffling.

“They are shades of grey, white and black; their smaller beaks don’t have the characteristic bright colours that the adults have in summer.”