The SEA LIFE Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary began assisting with the annual Puffling Patrol to rescue baby puffins in 2019 after opening our Visitor Centre on the island. Our role in the program is to work alongside the community and other organizations to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured or oiled pufflings (baby puffins).
The Vestmannaeyjar archipelago is home to Iceland´s largest breeding colony of Atlantic Puffins during the summer months with more than 700,000 pairs of puffins migrating to the islands to raise their young. At the end of the summer, when the pufflings (baby puffins) are leaving their cliffside burrows for the first time to fly to the ocean, they can become disoriented by lights or blown off course into the town, where they need a bit of help to get safely back to the sea. Each summer during this season the town of Vestmannaeyjar, along with our team, volunteers from Naturastofa Sudurlands and Þekkingarsetur Vestmannaeyjar, work together to find as many birds as possible in the town or harbor, assess their health and get them back to the ocean as soon as possible.
Some of the pufflings found are oiled or injured and need extra care. Our team takes in any oiled or injured birds for care and rehabilitation during this time. Care can range from a few days of feeding underweight or downy birds, to weeks of medical care and oil cleaning.
2022 Puffling Season
This puffling season 60 oiled, injured or underweight pufflings were accepted for care in our hospital. Across the island, more than 3,000 pufflings were rescued and released by volunteers and town residents.
The pufflings we cared for came in with a range of issues, but overall we were pleased to see a reduction in medical cases vs prior years:
- 13 pufflings were injured
- 28 were oiled or dirty and not waterproof
- 22 were underweight
Average care time for the birds this year was 6.5 days. Additional care and protocols were in place due to avian influenza in Iceland.
During the season, which latest from September 2 to 24 the rehabilitation and care took approximately:
- 308 hours of labour (staff and volunteers)
- 30 kg of fish to feed pufflings
- 60 avian flu tests
- 300,000 ISK in medical and cleaning supplies
Total projected costs for the puffling season care is 1,840,660 ISK (roughly 12,000 GBP) not including ongoing care for one puffling still in residence.