Puffin Rescue Centre
Puffin Rescue Centre
The Beluga Whale Sanctuary is home to Iceland´s only Puffin Rescue Centre, which takes in pufflings (baby puffins) and puffins found in Vestmannaeyjar which need some extra care. Most of these birds are rescued by the local Puffling Patrol, which works in cooperation with the Sanctuary. Some are brought in my local residents for review, treatment and possibly release if they are fit and ready. Admission to our visitor centre and donation help support the care of injured puffins, as well as those which cannot be released.
Resident Puffins at the Sanctuary
Some of the puffling patients can’t be released for various reasons and we currently have 5 long-term resident puffins at the Sanctuary. Some may not be able to fly, one hasn’t developed the oils it needs to waterproof her feathers and another is scared of water.
Whether a temporary patient or a full-time resident, all puffins in our care eat around 10 kg of capelin fish every month, which costs approximately 18 GBP per puffin, per month. If you would like to help us to care for these charismatic little sea birds, please click here to make a donation.
When pufflings fledge they are meant to use the moon for guidance and fly towards the sea, but many of these little creatures become confused and disorientated, following the bright street lights and landing in the town. This is where the Puffling Patrol comes to the rescue.
Local children follow a long tradition going back generations and, armed with a cardboard box and a torch, make it their mission to rescue the lost pufflings and release them in the sea, before they become a tasty cat snack or are knocked over by a car. However, some are already injured, thanks to landing on a hard road surface, flying into a house, or encountering unfriendly wildlife.
All pufflings found by the local puffling patrol are weighed and measured, checked for health and released by the children who found it, if it is healthy. In past years, any injured or underweight pufflings are checked over by Margrét, our resident puffin expert, and other staff, who care for these charismatic little birds while they recuperate until are well enough to be released back into the wild. This year we are also looking for volunteers to assist with weighing and caring for the pufflings.
In 2018 more than 5,600 pufflings were found and released by the puffling patrol – the highest number to date, especially after a worrying decline in the puffin population between 2003 and 2013. You can learn more about the puffling patrol on their website.
Iceland´s Largest Puffin Colony
The Vestmannaeyjar Islands are host to the largest Atlantic Puffin colony in the world. These sociable, colourful little sea birds tend to be monogamous and return to the same nesting site every year to lay one egg. Once the egg has hatched, pufflings are reared by their parents for around six weeks, before they fledge and head out to sea.
Historically pufflings fledged in August, but food shortages caused by environmental factors meant puffin parents had to prolong their feeding to achieve a reasonable weight to ensure survival. This caused the fledgling season to gradually be pushed back to September and even as late as October in 2015. Fledging so late in the year reduced the pufflings’ chances of survival with the onset of colder weather and winter storms, which in turn has a knock on effect on the puffin population for the following year. However, this year evidence points to the pufflings fledging in August and we are expecting their number to double from last year.