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Iceland Mag

Birds

Great news: 2018 looks like a good year for the puffin population in S. Iceland

By Staff

  • More puffins The puffin colonies in S Iceland are perking up! Photo/Heiða

There are more occupied nests in puffin burrows in South Iceland this year than in recent years, raising hopes that 2018 will be a good year for the important puffin colonies in the southern part of the country. These colonies have been in decline for years, due to changing climate conditions and changes in the ocean around Iceland.

Read more: Slideshow: The Pysja Patrols and the kids who rescued nearly 5000 pufflings this summer

The status of individual puffin colonies has been monitored for decades, but a systematic monitoring of all puffin burrows in Iceland only began in 2010. The count revealed that the puffins of Vestmannaeyjar islands are doing very well. Vestmannaeyjar is a cluster of volcanic islands on the south coast of Iceland and home the largest puffin colonies in the world. This year 65% of all the puffin burrows in the islands are occupied, a significant increase since last year when only 55% of burrows were occupied. The rate of burrow occupancy has never topped 74%.

Erpur Snær Hansen, the head of the South Iceland Nature Research Center, told the local newspaper Morgunblaðið that the results were very positive, as the puffin colonies in the south have been showing signs of decline for years. Puffin colonies in East and North East Iceland are all stable, according to the study. However, Erpur cautions against too much optimism, as colonies in West and North West show signs of decline.

While the Vestmannaeyjar colony is the largest in Iceland three most densely populated colonies are in West Iceland. Two of the most densely populated puffin colonies in Iceland in 2017 (measured by the occupancy ratio of the burrows) were found off the coast of Reykjavík. 86% of all burrows on Akurey island were occupied, with 90% of nesting having been successful. Lundey island, a second major puffin colony off the coast of Reykjavík had a 81% occupancy ratio, also with 90% success ratio.

Read more: Unique puffin colony on one of the islands off the coast of Reykjavík to be protected

The second most densely populated puffin colony in Iceland, according to the summary figures published by the South Iceland Nature Research Center for the 2017 count was Vigur island in Ísafjarðardjúp bay in the Westfjords also shows a very high occupancy ratio of 83%. 

Read more: Iceland's most picturesque island is up for sale: Vigur island in the Westfjords could be yours

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