‘Puffarazzi’ helps scientists understand decline in the puffins

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The RSPB’s Project Puffin has taken the first steps in solving the mystery of why some puffin colonies are in dramatic decline.

Scientists analysed more than 1,400 photographs sent in by the public – or the ‘paffarazzi’, as they were called.

More than a third of the photos came from Scottish puffin colonies.

This helped them to build a better picture of what these seabirds are feeding their chicks.

Traditionally, puffins feed on a mixture of fish, with sand-eels making up a high proportion of their diet.

The photos from puffin colonies in north-west Scotland show that sand-eels are making up about half of their diet compared to the two-thirds at colonies in southern Scotland, northern England and Wales.

The pictures have helped scientists identify areas where puffins are struggling to find the large, nutritious fish needed to support their chicks.

Early results suggest that the diet of puffins vary significantly around the UK. In the northern isles of Orkney and Shetland, where serious puffin declines have been seen, they appear to be consistently finding smaller prey compared to most other colonies.

To find out more, visit  www.rspb.org.uk/projectpuffin.