Puffin numbers have not been higher in the Westman Islands since record-keeping began in 2007, RÚV reports. A total of 78% of puffin nests on the islands were occupied in a recent survey that Náttúrustofa Suðurlands (The Nature Institute of South Iceland) conducted with the help of volunteers.
While the high occupancy rate in the Westman Islands is good news for puffin lovers, Erpur Snær Hansen, doctor of biology and the institute’s director, warns it’s too early to celebrate, as it remains to be seen how successful the breeding season will be.
Recent years rough for puffins
Over half of the world’s population of Atlantic puffins breeds in Iceland, or some 8-10 million birds. In 2018, BirdLife International declared the Atlantic puffin in danger of extinction. The puffin’s conservation status was also recently rated as vulnerable by the IUCN.
Puffins have been hard hit in recent years due to a diminished food supply. Algae has been blooming late in recent spring seasons, causing a chain reaction in the ocean ecosystem which meant less fish for puffins to feed on. Researchers expect improved conditions for the birds this year.
Higher occupancy across Iceland
The Westman Islands are not the only spot in Iceland showing high nest occupancy rates. Erpur says that puffin nesting areas around the country are showing high rates of occupancy. “At Breiðafjörður, there are more than half a million pairs, which therefore are of the utmost importance. There the occupancy is about 86%.”