Meet The Birds

Puffin Island is home to breeding populations of at least 10 species of seabird. Species descriptions follow - click here for picures of cute chicks! Estimates of population size for 2010 come either from boat-based counts undertaken by the Natural Resources Wales (NRW) or by on-island censuses undertaken by the Puffin Island team (PI).
 
1. Puffin (Fratercula arctica)
UK Conservation Status: Amber
Breeding pairs on Puffin Island: 8 (CCW)
 
These unmistakable and popular birds are rather rare on Puffin Island these days. In other breeding colonies they dig burrows, but on Puffin Islands lay their eggs in cracks between rocks at the top of the cliffs. Puffins feed by diving from the water surface, powered by their short stubby wings. They can reach depths of up to 70 m before returning to feed their chicks with a row of fish sideways in their bills.
 
 
 
 
2. Guillemot (Uria aalge)
UK Conservation Status: Amber
Breeding pairs on Puffin Island: 2249 (CCW)
 
Guillemots breed in noisy, smelly, densely-packed colonies, crowded onto ledges on high cliffs. They do not have a nest at all, so must take care when incubating their egg that it does not roll away. Guillemots are also impressive divers but can dive far deeper - up to 138 m due to their larger body size.
 
 
 
 
3. Razorbill (Alca torda)
UK Conservation Status: Amber
Breeding pairs on Puffin Island: 416 (CCW)
 
Razorbills are rather more solitary than guillemots and slightly smaller. They nest on small ledges, in cracks and under boulders where they lay their single egg. Despite their small size, they have been recorded diving to 140m. Like the other auks (puffins and guillemots) they feed on small fish such as sandeels.
 
 
 
 
 
4. Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
UK Conservation Status: Green
Breeding pairs on Puffin Island: 464 (CCW)
 
Puffin island is home to the UK's largest population of this large seabird. Cormorants are often seen inland and around the coasts of Britain throughout the year. They are unable to spend as much time at sea as the other species as their plumage is not fully waterproof. As a result you often see them 'wing-drying' - posing in tree with their wings hanging out to dry off.
 
  
 
 
5. Shag (Phalacroxorax aristotelis)
UK Conservation Status: Amber
Breeding pairs on Puffin Island: 401 (PI)
 
Slightly smaller than their close relation the cormorant, the shag is a common sight around UK coasts, feeding relatively close to shore on sandeels and other fish. They also feed by diving, in this case propelled by their large webbed feet. They can rear up to three chicks at a time in a single breeding season.
 
 
 
 
 
6. Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)
UK Conservation Status: Amber
Breeding pairs on Puffin Island: 413 (CCW)
 
Named for the sound of their distinctive call, populations of these small gulls are under threat around the UK. Another sandeel feeder, though this time at the water surface they are better adapted for flight and undertake long foraging trips around the coast of Anglesey and further afield. SCAN ringing group have been monitoring kittiwakes on Puffin Island since 1982 and have amassed a large data set on their population and survival.
 
 
7. Herring gull (Larus argentatus)
UK Conservation Status: Red
Breeding pairs on Puffin Island: 762 (PI)
 
Despite being a common sight these days in and around UK towns and cities, the herring gull is one of our most threatened seabirds. Over the last 50 years, their breeding populations in the UK have declined by over 50%. They seem to have a stronghold on Puffin Island though, feeding on a mixture of fish, shellfish and other things scavenged from the marine environment, possibly with some human waste mixed in too.
 
 
8. Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)
UK Conservation Status: Amber
Breeding pairs on Puffin Island: 1092 (PI)
 
Very similar in size and appearance to the herring gull, lesser black-backed gulls are also regular visitors to urban areas. Both species lay clutches of up to three eggs and the chicks are able to run around and hide in the grass from very shortly after hatching.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
9. Great Black-backed gull (Larus marinus)
UK Conservation Status: Amber
Breeding pairs on Puffin Island: 79 (PI)
 
The top predators on Puffin Island, these large gulls have a varied diet but prey upon the other seabirds on the island, gladly consuming their unguarded eggs or chicks. They are highly territorial, making their nests within easy reach of the other species on which they depend.  
 
  
 
 
10. Fulmar (Fulmaris glacialis)
UK Conservation Status: Amber
Breeding pairs on Puffin Island: 31 (CCW)
 
Though at first glance they may look like gulls, fulmars are actually more closely related to albatrosses. They can fly huge distances across the oceans with their low-cost gliding style of flight. If approached on land though they can be tricky customers with both adults and chicks defending themselves by spitting out foul-smelling stomach oil.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Subpages (1): Meet The Chicks