International partners work together for tufted puffin research

Tufted puffins. Photos by: Scott Pearson

Tufted puffin research

We (the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) worked collaboratively with researchers from Environment and Climate Change Canada, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and University of Puget Sound to examine tufted puffin population trends throughout their North American range, and we recently published a research article in Bird Conservation International summarizing our findings.

Puffin on the water adjacent to Smith Island. Photo by: Scott Pearson

Research findings

Our findings show long-term and nearly uniform population declines in the at-sea and colony-based surveys in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, which includes California, Oregon, and Washington colonies. We also saw downward trends in most datasets from the Gulf of Alaska and British Columbia.

Researchers collecting puffin burrow density information on an Alaskan colony.

Why are puffins declining throughout much of their nesting range?

Although not part of the study, declines may be attributed to a variety of factors that occurred in the past and some that are ongoing. Historical events include factors like fisheries bycatch, oil spills, and the introduction of non-native species like arctic foxes to nesting islands.

How WDFW and partners are working together to help puffins

In our study, we recommended a better integrated monitoring strategy to assess puffin trends throughout the species’ range. To advance this goal, U.S. and Canadian scientists and biologists gathered last month in Alaska to initiate discussions and test methods for a North American monitoring strategy.

Puffin spreads its wings on Destruction Island. Photo by: Scott Pearson

How can you help tufted puffins?

Because nesting puffins are sensitive to human disturbance and all Washington’s puffin colonies are currently closed to public visitation, we ask people to stay off nesting colonies and give them a wide berth. Nearly all of Washington’s active puffin colonies are managed by US Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Washington Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Complex with a couple of colonies managed by the State and tribes.

Tufted puffin in flight. Photo by: Scott Pearson



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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.