Study sheds light on little-known migration habits of iconic Atlantic puffin

Researchers are gaining insight into the little-known winter migration habits of the iconic Atlantic puffin.

A new study published Thursday looked at the species in several colonies around the world, and found the further the small birds travel from their breeding colonies, the less success they may have in breeding.

Tony Diamond, a University of New Brunswick ecologist who collaborated on the study with the University of Oxford, tracked puffins from the colony at Machias Seal Island on the Maine-New Brunswick border using tiny tags affixed to their legs.

The researchers tracked how far the puffins travelled, calculated the energy they expended and determined whether they mixed with other colonies.

They followed the migration of 270 adult puffins from 13 populations covering major breeding grounds across the North Atlantic, including data from 12 populations in Canada, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, the U.K. and the United States.

They found puffins from the small eastern Canadian population travelled to wintering grounds in southern Labrador and the St. Lawrence estuary, and that the short distance may explain why the population is in better shape than its endangered European counterpart.