New webcams at Maine’s Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge give viewers the opportunity to get up close with Atlantic puffins and observe the birds as they court, breed and preen.
The multiple HD cameras are explore.org’s latest addition to its Pearls of the Planet initiative, a collection of live video feeds from around the world, and these two were made possible through the organization’s partnership with Audubon.
One of the Puffin Cams provides a real-time view into a puffin burrow where a pair of lifelong partners has welcomed a new chick. Female puffins generally lay a single egg in late April, and chicks begin hatching by mid-June. Both of the parents incubate the egg and feed the chick. The burrow camera is infrared and can be viewed 24 hours a day.
The other camera looks out over the “loafing ledge,” a boulder where the birds engage in “billing,” a beak-rubbing ritual done by courting and long-mated pairs. The ledge is also where the puffins will compete for favored positions on the large rock and preen their feathers. The best viewing times for this webcam is between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST.
"The Puffin Cams have a mesmerizing effect that we believe will help people escape the stresses of everyday life and provide a positive benefit that will carry over when they return to their daily obligations," said Charles Annenberg Weingarten, founder of explore.org and vice president of the Annenberg Foundation, in a press release.
Military activity and overhunting for eggs, feathers and meat wiped out the puffin population on Seal Island in the 1800s, but the birds began to flourish on the island when Audubon Project Puffin Director and Vice President Dr. Stephen Kress began reintroducing them. Kress, an ornithologist, pioneered the use of mirrors, decoy birds and sound recordings to encourage the relocated puffins to nest.
This year more than 550 pairs are nesting, making this remote New England island the largest puffin colony in Maine. The methods developed on Seal Island have also helped to restore 13 seabird-nesting sanctuaries along the state’s coast and have inspired similar projects in 14 countries.
"We’re excited to give people a window into this wonderful world of seabirds, and we hope to inspire viewers everywhere to take actions that improve the planet for birds and people," Kress said in a press release.
To learn more about puffins, visit www.projectpuffin.org/PuffinQuestions.html.