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Date:11/26/2014 3:06:00 PM
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Named for the striking yellow tufts that grow above its eyes during breeding season, the tufted puffin is one of the most loved birds in North America.The tufted puffin’s striking breeding season coloration has earned it such names as “sea parrot” and “clown of the sea.” With its short wings that allow it to swim expertly underwater, the tufted puffin dives for prey along coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington where populations of this seabird, as well as in Japan, are in trouble, as lack of prey, climate change, fishing, oil spills, and other dangers take their toll. Tufted puffins are able to dive up to 60 meters to catch small fish like sardines, herring, and anchovy and may make as many as 360 dives per day when foraging to feed their chicks. Breeding populations of tufted puffins in California, Oregon, and Washington have declined by 85 to 90 percent in the last three decades, from more than 30,000 birds to no more than 4000 today. Most of these remaining puffins are in Washington. Oregon and California are each estimated to have breeding populations of less than 300 birds. The population in Japan is down to ten breeding pairs. Tufted puffins are still numerous in Alaska and British Columbia. But the more southern populations that are in steep decline encompass a significant portion of the species’ historic range and contain genetic diversity that is important to maintain if the species is to persist in the long-term, particularly with impacts from climate change escalating. humans are the cause of the tufted puffin’s plight. Climate change, driven by our burning of fossil fuels, is altering temperatures and circulation patterns of our oceans, disrupting the food web and making it harder for puffins to forage and to successfully reproduce. Puffins are also caught as bycatch in commercial fishing nets, drowning underwater when they cannot surface for air.
Diving for food and roosting on the surface of the water makes the tufted puffin highly vulnerable to impacts from oil spills. A single oil spill can wipe out entire breeding colonies. In fact, in 1991, the Tenyo Maru oil spill off the coast of Washington killed about 10 percent of the state’s population of tufted puffins. Similarly, the Exxon Valdez spill was responsible for the death of up to 13,000 Alaskan tufted puffins in 1989.
To compound the problem, tufted puffins generally return to the same colony each year and even if any birds were tempted to stray, breeding colonies in the contiguous United States are physically separated from other breeding colonies to the north. This has made recovery very difficult as population numbers dwindle. In recent years,

love Cori and Boo Boo (campaign mgr)
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