Seal Island Update 1998
PUFFINS INCREASE FROM 58 TO 78 PAIRS
The recently restored puffin colony at Seal Island
National Wildlife Refuge increased this summer by 34 percent as it continued
seven years of dramatic growth. The 20 new pairs discovered in 1998 represent
the single largest increase to date since the colony was restored in 1992.
Seal Island was once the largest puffin colony
in mid-coast Maine until hunters killed the last of the breeding puffins
for meat and feathers in 1887. One hundred and five years passed until
1992 when puffins recolonized the island-the culmination of an eight-year
effort to re-establish this important colony. In 1984, the National Audubon
Society, Canadian Wildlife Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service formed a partnership to bring puffins and terns back to this 100-acre
island. Although it was protected as a National Wildlife Refuge, without
an active restoration effort, it's likely that puffins and terns would
not have pioneered new colonies at this important historic nesting place.
Between 1984 and 1989, a total of 950 puffin chicks
ranging in age from 2 to 40 days old (most were 10 to 14 days old) were
reared in artificial burrows, banded and then released. Wooden decoys helped
to encourage these birds to land, congregate and eventually nest. Most
of the first breeders at Seal Island NWR were translocated puffins (young
brought to the island where they were hand reared and released). These
pioneers in turn helped to attract additional puffins from other colonies.
The sources for most of the new nests are unknown, but of the 40 breeders,
leg bands prove that three hatched at nearby Matinicus Rock (six miles
south), one bird hatched at Petit Manan Island (49 miles east), and three
hatched at Machias Seal Island (85 miles east).
Puffin C-1, a native puffin chick banded in 1994,
was confirmed nesting at Seal Island NWR this summer. This is the first
record of a chick hatched at Seal Island returning to breed. Native chicks
such as C-1 will likely become an increasingly important source of recruits.
Four-year-old C-1 is on the young side for a puffin breeder as most puffins
do not nest until they are five or more years old. C-1's parents were two
Newfoundland transplanted puffins-#723 and #904-who continue to nest on
the north side of the island. C-1 mated with MR315, (also a four-year-old)
banded as a chick at Matinicus Rock. C-1's burrow (nest #85) is about 80
meters from its parent's burrow (nest #13).
FIRST NESTING OF RAZORBILLS
AT SEAL ISLAND NWR
On August 10, while searching for puffin chicks in deep rock crevices,
Kristin Williamson discovered a remarkable find- a Razorbill egg. The large,
cream-colored egg with distinctive, brown markings was abandoned, but is
proof that Razorbills founded a new Maine breeding site this summer. Previously,
Razorbills were known to nest on just three islands: Matinicus Rock, Old
Man Island and Freeman Rock. The new breeding record is likely related
to the recent rapid growth of the Razorbill colony on nearby Matinicus
Rock (see below) which has increased the local population of Razorbills
with an inclination to nest in mid-coast Maine. This first nesting is also
the culmination of a five-year effort to encourage Razorbills to nest at
the island using social attraction techniques and sound recordings. Since
1994, 20 Razorbill decoys and a non-stop CD-sound system have helped to
lure these distinctive auks to the island.
All contents © 1998, Seabird Restoration Program
of the National Audubon Society. All rights reserved. More
on the copyright.
For General Information and Questions:
159 Sapsucker Woods Road
Ithaca, New York 14850