The range of the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) extends from the American northeast to France, Ireland, and points north, with most of the birds living on small islands and the open ocean adjacent to Greenland, Iceland, and Norway. The great diversity of its home ranges has protected the species from local vicissitudes: a population dip in one area may be countered by a spike somewhere else. But this variety has also presented a challenge to environmentalists bent on protecting a fairly vulnerable creature.
Scientists believe that changing weather patterns have been reducing the numbers of fish in the Atlantic puffin’s traditional feeding areas, driving many birds to look beyond the familiar waters of the North Sea for their meals. In addition, oil spills and other chemical hazards can affect the puffin, whose diet tends to concentrate toxins in its body tissues, sometimes resulting in unusually fragile eggs. Coordinated international research and conservation will be necessary to ensure its survival.
Contains five each of the following four notecards:
Atlantic puffin, Iceland; photograph by Ralph Lee Hopkins
Atlantic puffin, Iceland; photograph by Art Wolfe
Atlantic puffins, England; photograph by Hans Christoph Kappel
Atlantic puffin, Norway; photograph by Steven Kazlowski
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