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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).


C-1 NESTS!

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.



 
 
 

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