The percentage of puffin burrows in which puffins have returned to lay eggs is 91 percent, a national record, on Drangey island on Skagafjörður fjord in North Iceland. The habitation ratio has never been higher in Iceland since it was first studied.
Archive photo: Páll Stefánsson/Iceland Review.
Ornithologists are currently carrying out their annual puffin studies. They travel around the country and visit the same puffin colonies that they’ve visited in previous years to check the nesting condition, Morgunblaðið reports.
As in recent years, the condition of puffins appears to be significantly better in North Iceland than in South and West Iceland.
In Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands), home to the largest puffin colony in the world with approximately one million couples, the habitation ratio is close to 60 percent, up from 52 percent last year.
If the ratio drops below 60 percent, the nesting is considered to have failed. Under normal circumstances, the ratio should be at least 75 percent.
The situation is worst on Akurey island in Faxaflói bay off Reykjavík where the current ratio is only 46 percent.
On Elliðaey island in Breiðafjörður in West Iceland the ratio is 60 percent and on Vigur in Ísafjarðardjúp 70 percent, which is a stable condition for the West Fjords’ island.
The team of scientists has yet to visit a number of colonies in North and East Iceland.
They are also planning to place GPS monitors on ten puffins on Grímsey island in the north, the same amount of puffins on Papey island in the southeast and Vestmannaeyjar in the south, along with other birds of the Alcidae family.
The project is carried out in collaboration by three institutes of natural history, in South, West and North Iceland.
The team recently had results from isotope studies to determine the main food of puffins. While puffins in Canada mainly feed on krill in winter and fish in summer, puffins from Grímsey and Vestmannaeyjar eat fish all year round. However, puffin chicks in Vestmannaeyjar primarily fed on krill in the summer of 2009.
Results from a study on heavy metals in puffins from Vigur, Grímsey, Lundey island on Skjálfandi in Northeast Iceland and Vestmannaeyjar have also arrived.
It turned out that the puffins from Vestmannaeyjar carried eight to nine times more lead than puffins from North Iceland, four to five times more cadmium and three times more selenium. This indicates that puffins from South Iceland travel to different winter habitats than their northern brethren.