Watch pufflings hatch LIVE (Mid-June 2010)

Shetland.org has set up a live Puffin web cam and they are currently waiting for some pufflings to hatch! They are thought to be hatching between June 10th and June 15th! This means we can actually WATCH a puffling being hatched LIVE! How fantastic would that be!? A miracle for certain. And it is not like these little sea clowns won’t amuse us in the meanwhile, right?

Click on the link below or either picture to get to the Puffin cam

 

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (and tufted puffins!)

Talking to the Zookeepers pays off!! Next time you visit a zoo—say hello and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Tufted puffin couple at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, WA

Tufted puffin couple at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, WA

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium currently has 20 tufted puffins in its exhibit, 9 males and 11 females. The tufted puffins range in age from 1 to 31. They currently have the oldest living puffin in captivity at 31 years of age!! He is only 3 years younger than me! =) Not only is he the oldest living puffin in captivity but tufted puffins are thought to only be capable of producing and raising chicks until their mid-twenties but this 31-year-old tufted puffin is a proud papa this year! The Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium also has the oldest living female in captivity at 27 years old. And if all this isn’t enough to make you get excited they also have 3 tufted puffin pairs that they believe are raising chicks this year. I wrote ‘they believe’ because the zookeepers try to let the tufted puffins raise the chicks as naturally as possible so the zookeepers do not check on their progress. They wait and are surprised by the little ones in the exhibit. How fun is that?!?

This is one of the tufted puffin mothers this year

This is one of the tufted puffin mothers who had a chick this year

The youngest tufted puffin chick at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium as of August 2009!

The youngest tufted puffin chick at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium as of August 2009!

The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is currently in the middle of some intensive training with their puffins as well. In the past year they have been training them to eat from the zookeepers’ hands so that they can better deliver any vitamins and medications the puffins may need. The training has been extremely successful so far. Part of this training for the last 6 months included working on scale training the puffins (training the puffins to step on a scale in order to get more frequent weights) instead of having to catch the puffins and hold them to get their weight. Catching them is extremely stressful for the puffins and so the the new weighing techniques has been very effective for both the zookeepers and the puffins. The Pt. Defiance Zoo now has weights on all birds except for about 4.

It is amazing what some hard work can produce! These quirky adorable little birds are definitely smarter than the zookeepers realized. I, for one, am looking forward to discovering more about the little pufflings and the progress of the training at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium!

For more information on the puffin exhibit (within the Rocky Shores exhibit) at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium—you can visit them online at their official website or in person at:

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
5400 N Pearl St # D Ruston, WA 98407-3296
(253) 591-5337

What are the hours and days of operation to see the puffins at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium? The zoo is open from 9:30-6:00 until September 7. After that the zoo is open from 9:30-5:00. The birds can be viewed any time during those hours, their exhibit is never closed.

When are the best times to go to see the puffins at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium if you have questions?
They feed their puffins 3 times a day during breeding season, twice a day during non-breeding season. As of right now, they are fed at approximately 8:00, 12:00-1:00, and 3:00-3:30. They will discontinue the last feeding during non-breeding season. This isn’t really definitive, but there is not a set schedule to when they feed their animals but this is a good guess. I will update you when I find out more…

Stitch-up to save puffin chicks

Puffling on St Kilda

The pufflings can become disorientated by lights on the Scottish isle

People talented at sewing are being asked to make cotton drawstring bags to help save lost puffin chicks on the remote Scottish isle of St Kilda.

Dozens of the baby birds become disorientated each year by lights from buildings housing ranger staff and end up inland, instead of out to sea.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) said rangers would use the bags to rescue the animals and keep them safe.

The pufflings will be then taken to the coast and released back into the water.

Read more

((Original Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/highlands_and_islands/7793919.stm))

The Five Month Bird

Puffins travel in large packs but they are only around for about five months a year—going out to sea the rest of the time. So, catch them while you can generally March to July—these months may vary depending on where you are in the world. They only come in to mate, nest, incubate their egg (yes, generally they only have one) in the burrow and then they are off!

Both sexes incubate for 39-43 days with shifts of about 32 hours each, and the puffling is hatched with a covering of down. At about two months old the young puffin goes off by itself. Back to the sea for the puffin family—although not necessarily together.

Puffling


Puffling

Originally uploaded by pmchugh

The little puffin is called a puffling. Baby puffins. =)

Aren’t they sweet? I mean aside from the hands that look like they are crushing it, (they are not! the birds are not harmed!)

Pufflings take about 39-43 days to hatch. Once born it takes about a week before it can maintain its own body temperature. During this week it depends on its parents to keep it nice and warm. Typically, one parent stays near and holds it under its wing close to them to stay toasty warm and the other goes out to find some food. After about 10-12 days the little pufflings start to get their wing feathers.

When it is time to eat the little puffling knows because the parent not keeping it warm will call out to it and leave it a few fish on the floor to eat deep within the burrow to protect it from light.

Pufflings do not like light much until they are full fledged (able to take care of themselves). I am not sure why but this light sensitivity ensures that the pufflings stay deep in their burrow safe from other seabirds and predators. Actually, if a burrow is not deep enough and a direct source of light is around the egg or chick while it is being incubated their chances of survival are much lower.

Pufflings can count on their parents to feed them until about 34-60 days. Towards the end of this period, their parents are feeding them about ten times a day! Hungry little birds, aren’t they? However, if there is not a lot of food the pufflings will need their parents to feed them longer.

Once it is completely fledge, the little puffling will head out to sea late at night when predators are least likely to be around. This usually goes fairly well. They simply jump into the water and off they go but sometimes the lights and commotion of the people in towns nearby confuses the poor little pufflings and then they wander towards land instead of sea. Luckily, most of these little confused wanderers are rescued by local people and returned to the sea. Other pufflings never make it because predatory birds such as the black-backed gulls and rats and arctic foxes and bald eagles find them before they make it out to sea. How sad for these little guys!

I posted a video from National Geographic which shows the Puffin’s journey out to sea
here
. You can also read all about how the little local boys and girls save the pufflings who wander into town in this book:

Night of the Pufflings by Bruce McMillan

Night of the Pufflings by Bruce McMillan

Sources:
Angel, Heather. Puffins. New York: Evans Mitchell Books, 2007.
Taylor, Kenny. Puffins. New York: Voyageur P, Incorporated, 1999.

Sharing is Sweet – Puffins in Love

Puffin love is enduring and everlasting.

Puffin couple stay together for life. They start having puffin babies (breeding) when they are about five years old. There is no definitive lifespan for the puffin. Some still breed at 10 years old and some have been known to live almost 40 years. So, these couples really are in it for a lifetime.

Puffins share. They share food. They take turns digging and protecting their burrows and they even share the duties of caring for their children. Both the male and the female help to incubate the eggs by taking turns holding them tight under their wing, where there are small patches of bare-skin with lots of blood supply. Once the baby pufflings are born the parents also share the work in feeding them. One keeps it warm and protects and the other collects its food. They do everything together.

When puffins fly out to sea, if they cannot find their mate, they will meet back at the burrow and fly back to sea together to breed. To show affection they often rub their beaks together, commonly known as “billing”. They also have been heard cooing at one another. How cute is that?

Puffins are romantic birds, aren’t they?

Sources:
Angel, Heather. Puffins. New York: Evans Mitchell Books, 2007.

http://www.alaskastock.com/Puffin_Photos.asp

http://www.audubon.org/bird/puffin/puffins.html