Puffins forage in coastal and open sea waters and breed in colonies on the outer coast. They are highly vulnerable to surface oil.
Vulnerability towards oil
Puffins spend most of the time on the water surface. Gathering of large flocks may lead to high mortalities.
- May be oiled when swimming on the surface and diving for fish.
- Oiled plumage will cause the bird to lose flotation and insulation
- No avoidance of oil slicks.
- Puffins nest in rocky cliffs, in cracks or in hollows between rocks in high screes, usually too high up to be vulnerable to shoreline oiling.
- Puffins are usually found high up in the cliffs, less likely to get oiled on shore.
Typical environmental zone
- Puffin colonies are generally found in the outer coastal zone where they breed in steep vegetation covered cliffs or screes where nesting can take place between rocks or in burrows.
- Foraging range in the breeding season can be as much as 100 km from the coast.
- Outside the breeding season puffins may be found in large flocks of several alcid (auk) species in the open sea far from the coast. These flocks gather at eddies with high production and presence of fish prey.
Protection/oil spill combat
- Special issues:
- Colonies of auks usually have a high protection status
- Barrier 3 and 4: Upstream protection of the colony by mechanical recovery of oil expected to drift in the direction of sea bird colonies
- Upstream chemical dispersal of oil slicks should be considered if mechanical containment and recovery is not possible.
- Barrier 5, shoreline cleanup should be prioritised on and surrounding the cliffs where sea birds rest. Cliffs can be cleaned by hosing the oil with water. Protect the surrounding areas from remobilised oil by fencing off with booms and using skimmers to collect oil.
- Dead birds should be collected for post-spill environmental surveys, which involves identification of the species. Handle only with protective equipment and store according to procedure for collecting
- If operator policy requires, oiled live birds should be collected by specialists in wildlife rehabilitation for treatment. Specialists and veterinaries trained in rehabilitation will decide whether to euthanise or rehabilitate the animal.