Puffin Populations Boom Off The Coast Of Maine After Near-Extinction

Puffin populations are increasing after being pushed to the brink of extinction off the coast of Maine.

The National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin has been hard at work in restoring puffin populations and their efforts are finally paying off.

Photo: flickr/Judy Gallagher

According to the NAS, Project Puffin was started back in 1973 in an effort to learn how to restore puffins to their historic nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine.

Atlantic puffins once called the offshore islands of Maine home and had made 6 different islands into popular nesting sites. However, the species suffered from intense hunting following colonial days and by 1902, just two birds remained on Matinicus Rock, one of the most popular nesting spots near Maine.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Conservation efforts and protections for sea birds were implanted around that time, allowing puffin numbers to slowly recovery, but it soon became clear they needed help.

When the Puffin Project began back in 1972, puffin nesting sites along the Maine coast had dwindled down to just two islands, Matinicus Rock and Machias Seal Island, and the two colonies were vulnerable to disaster. Though puffins weren’t endangered on a worldwide scale at the time, their numbers were concerning. The IUCN listed them as Threatened and Endangered in Europe and they were listed as threatened in the state of Maine, according to the NAS.


Volunteers with the Puffin Project began working to introduce pufflings and nesting pairs to the abandoned nesting sites. Now, 50 years later, the populations are thriving!

Thanks to their 50 years of conservation efforts, there’s now a stable colony of thousands of breeding puffins off the coast of Maine.

According to the NAS, the Puffin Project was the first one in history that restored a seabird to an offshore island where it had been extirpated by humans – quite an accomplishment!

Photo: StockVault

That said, conservationists are concerned that climate change may undo much of their work. According to the News Center Maine, Don Lyons, Audubon’s director of conservation science for the Seabird Institute, said of climate change’s impact:

“So, we are seeing red flags. Not to the point where we see impending doom, but it’s concerning. It’s a wake-up call to us to better manage climate change to be able to hold on to these rare and threatened species in the gulf.”

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