Mixed News of Puffin Nesting in Iceland Skip to content

Mixed News of Puffin Nesting in Iceland

By Iceland Review

The condition of puffin nesting on Papey island off southeast Iceland has improved after a collapse 2011. However, uncertainty surrounds colonies in the southwestern region and on Grímsey island in the north, the nesting ratio appears to have dropped by one third since last year.


Puffins. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

Scientists are closely monitoring the condition of puffins in Iceland. Every summer they circle the country twice to register how high a percentage of the bird stock nests, ruv.is reports.

After the summer’s first round-trip it appears that puffin nesting in the southwestern part of the country is still below “the 60 percent wall”, meaning that fewer than 60 percent of the birds are hatching eggs which indicate slim chances of survival for hatchlings.

However, in east Iceland the condition of nesting is improving, especially on Papey. Biology professor Erpur Snær Hansen said on Papey 75 percent of puffins are lying on eggs and there are hatchlings in 70 percent of burrows.

This is a drastic change from 2011 when the island was covered in dead hatchlings. The most likely explanation for the positive development is the bird’s increased access to capelin.

The Westman Islands in the southwest are home to an estimated 800,000 puffin couples. The situation there was particularly poor last year when only one fifth of the stock laid eggs and most of the eggs were abandoned.

This year, the timing of nesting is closer to the average—the Westman Islands puffins haven’t laid eggs this early in seven years. Approximately half of the islands’ puffin stock appears to be laying eggs.

As in the past few years, the condition of puffin colonies is best in north Iceland. However, the exception is Grímsey where 57 percent of puffins are lying on eggs, a drop by one third. The reason for this development is unclear.

Click here to read more about concerns over puffins and other seabirds.


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