Fratercula arctica 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Charadriiformes Alcidae

Scientific Name: Fratercula arctica
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Atlantic Puffin, Puffin
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Identification information: 26-36 cm, wingspan 47-63 cm. Mostly black upperparts from neck, across throat with white breast, flanks and belly (Nettleship et al. 2014). White/grey face with black band from forehead to nape. Large triangular bill, radially compressed, bluish grey at base with pale yellow cere and orange/yellow rictal rosette at gape. Orange-red eye ring with soft brown iris. Juvenile resembles adult but generally smaller. Similar species Horned Puffin F. corniculata is larger and with different bill and facial ornaments.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A4abcde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Gudmundsson, G., Harris, M., Wanless, S., Anker-Nilssen, T., Carboneras, C., Bourne, W. & Folkestad, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ashpole, J, Burfield, I., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Ieronymidou, C., Pople, R., Tarzia, M, Wheatley, H. & Wright, L
This species has experienced rapid declines across its European range. Population trends outside Europe are unknown. Extrapolated over three generation lengths and allowing for uncertainty, the population is thought to be declining at a rate sufficient to trigger Vulnerable under the population size criterion. Should population trends become less uncertain both within and outside its European range it may merit uplisting or downlisting.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2012 Least Concern (LC)
2009 Least Concern (LC)
2008 Least Concern (LC)
2004 Least Concern (LC)
2000 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1994 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1988 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Atlantic Puffin can be found throughout the North Atlantic Ocean, from north-west Greenland (to Denmark) to the coastline of Newfoundland (Canada) in the west, and from north Norway down to the Canary Islands, Spain (in winter) in the east (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The population in Iceland and Norway, which together account for 80% of the European population, decreased markedly since the early 2000s (BirdLife International 2015). In south and west Iceland the population has generally failed every year since 2005 (G. A. Gudmundsson in litt. 2015). The largest Norwegian colony, Røst, has experienced sharp declines (T. Anker-Nilssen in litt. 2015) and the population at Runde has also declined (A. O. Folkestad in litt. 2015) however many colonies remain unmonitored (T. Anker-Nilssen in litt. 2015). Populations in the Faroe Islands (Denmark) and Greenland are also reported to be decreasing (BirdLife International 2015). Although the population size was estimated to be increasing in the U.K. during 1969-2000, evidence suggests that it has undergone declines or probable declines since 2000 (Harris and Wanless 2011). A reduction in the recruitment of juveniles into the breeding population is thought to be the most likely factor involved in a sharp decrease in the number of puffins at the Fair Isle (U.K.) breeding colony; from approximately 20,200 individuals in 1986 to 10,700 individuals in 2012 (Miles et al. 2015). Adult survival probability remained similar across the 27 years of the study, whilst breeding success, the number of feeding visits by adults to chicks and the size of available prey fish all decreased. 

Countries occurrence:
Algeria; Belgium; Canada; Denmark; Faroe Islands; France; Germany; Gibraltar; Greenland; Iceland; Ireland; Italy; Morocco; Netherlands; Norway; Portugal; Russian Federation; Saint Pierre and Miquelon; Spain; Svalbard and Jan Mayen; Sweden; Tunisia; United Kingdom; United States
Austria; Bermuda; Croatia; Finland; Hungary; Malta; Montenegro; Poland; Serbia (Serbia)
Present - origin uncertain:
Estonia; Latvia; Lithuania; Monaco; Western Sahara
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 1620000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The European population is estimated to be 4,770,000-5,780,000 pairs, which equates to 9,550,000-11,600,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend Justification:  The population size in Europe is estimated and projected to decrease by 50-79% during 2000-2065 (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015). Europe holds >90% of the global population, so the projected declines in Europe are globally significant. The overall trend of the West Atlantic population is unknown (Berglund and Hentati-Sundberg 2014). Populations are suspected to be declining rapidly through the combined impact of predation by invasive species, pollution, food shortages caused by the depletion of fisheries and adult mortality in fishing nets.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The species is exclusively marine, found on rocky coasts and offshore islands (Nettleship et al. 2014). It nests on grassy maritime slopes, sea cliffs and rocky slopes. During the winter it is wide-ranging, found in offshore and pelagic habitats usually in open water regions of breeding range to the edge of the continental shelf. Only infrequently found in open ocean. 

The species is a pursuit-diver catching most of its prey within 30 m of the water surface but capable of diving to 60 m (Piatt and Nettleship 1985, Burger and Simpson 1986). They prey on 'forage' species, including juvenile pelagic fishes, such as herring Clupea harengus, juvenile and adult capelin Mallotus villosus, and sandeel Ammodytes spp. (Barrett et al. 1987). At times, they also prey on juvenile demersal fishes, such as gadids (Harris and Hislop 1978, Martin 1989, Rodway and Montevecchi 1996). Sandeels usually form the majority of the prey fed to chicks (Corkhill 1973, Hislop and Harris 1985, Harris and Wanless 1986, Martin 1989, Harris and Riddiford 1989), and many chicks starve during periods of low sandeel abundance (Martin 1989), although there are exceptions, such as at Skomer Island in 1969 when sprat made up the majority of the diet fed to chicks (Corkhill 1973).

This is a relatively wide-ranging species. When feeding chicks, birds generally forage within 10 km of their colony, but may range as far as 50 to 100 km or more (Harris 1984, Rodway and Montevecchi 1996). A boat transect run on one day in 1970 found that 85% of all birds seen were concentrated within just 3 km of the colony (BirdLife International 2000), but other studies have found peaks in the density of foraging birds at up to 40 km distance from the colony (Webb et al. 1985, Stone et al. 1992, Stone et al. 1993, BirdLife International 2000). Similarly, surveys at the Isle of May, Scotland, suggest that birds forage close to the breeding colony, but also at other sites up to 40 km away (Wanless et al. 1990, BirdLife International 2000). Various studies (Pearson 1968, Corkhill 1973, Bradstreet and Brown 1985, BirdLife International 2000), based on different breeding colonies, have estimated the theoretical maximum foraging radius at anywhere from 32 km (Corkhill 1973) to 200 km (Bradstreet and Brown 1985).

Systems: Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 21.6
Movement patterns: Full Migrant
Congregatory: Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, such as sea temperature rise and shifts in prey distribution and abundance (Durant et al. 2003, Sandvik et al. 2005). This is a particularly important threat when prey species are exploited unsustainably, leading to prey reductions and subsequent unsuccessful breeding. It is vulnerable to oil spills and other marine pollution. Extreme weather events and storms also pose a threat, with large wrecks recorded following severe winter storms at sea. At the breeding colonies the species is vulnerable to invasive predators, such as rats, cats, and American Mink Neovison vison. The species is susceptible to being caught in gillnets, although other fishing gears may also catch significant numbers. Increasing numbers of offshore wind farms may result in displacement from habitat, although the risk of collision is considered very low (Bradbury et al. 2014). The species is hunted for human consumption in Iceland, and in the Faroe Islands (Thorup et al. 2014). Harvesting, livestock grazing and tourism at its breeding grounds pose additional threats due to disturbance (Nettleship et al. 2014).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation and Research Actions Underway
The species is listed under the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. It is included in the Action Plan for Seabirds in Western-Nordic Areas (TemaNord 2010). There are 76 marine Important Bird Areas identified across the European region. Within the EU there are 40 Special Protection Areas which list this species as occurring within its boundaries. 

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Further identification of important sites for this species, particularly in offshore regions and designation as marine protected areas. Increase knowledge of the species's ecological requirements in winter. Develop a monitoring scheme to understand population trends in Iceland and the Faroe Islands (Nettleship et al. 2014). Identify the risks of different activities on seabirds, and locations sensitive to seabirds. Continue eradication of invasive predators from breeding colonies. Management of fisheries to ensure long-term sustainability of key stocks (e.g. sandeels). Establish observer schemes for bycatch and prepare National/Regional plans of action on seabird bycatch. Continue Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) monitoring of seabird contaminants; include new contaminants and secure communication between seabird and contaminants research. Develop a system to monitor and predict impacts of offshore oil developments on important areas for the species, in particular, key wintering sites (Nettleship et al. 2014). Increase the level of understanding among the public of introducing hunting restrictions. Develop codes-of-conduct for more organised activities (e.g. tourism). Ensure that appropriate protection (national laws and international agreements) applies to new areas and times in cases of changes in seabird migration routes and times.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2015. Fratercula arctica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T22694927A82593109. . Downloaded on 01 December 2015.
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