Biologists say that puffin chicks that hatched on several of Maine’s offshore islands this year struggled with storms, predation and food shortages, and most were unlikely to survive.
After near-extirpation from the U.S. during the 1800s, Maine’s puffin population is the only one that’s been re-established in the continental U.S. Linda Welch, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says this year has been their toughest in recent memory.
On Petit Manan, she says, 90% of the nesting puffins failed to produce a chick and some abandoned their nests. Chicks that did hatch and survive to the fledging stage were leaving their rocky island burrows well-below weight.
“And also 40 to 50% smaller than we normally see… And I’ve never seen that before. We were calling them “micro-puffins.” I’ve never seen a bird fledge (when it was) not at the correct size,” Welch says.