Puffin’s Incredible Bermuda Journey

February 13, 2012

In 1497, John Cabot sailed from England in search of Asian spices but instead found Canada’s rugged coastline and islands teeming with plump, colourful seabirds known as Atlantic puffins — and now a bird named after the explorer has led scientists to the species’ previously unknown wintering waters near Bermuda.

The “Boston Globe” reports today [Feb.13] the US National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin, which has been restoring puffins to Maine islands since the 1970s, put geolocators on eight birds on Seal Island in the summer of 2009.

“Last summer, interns captured two of the birds and downloaded the data from the devices,” reports the Massachusetts newspaper. “Of the two birds, Cabot, a male at least eight years old, had the most amazing journey. During the fall, winter, and spring of 2009-10 and 2010-11, Cabot travelled so far north into the harsh Labrador Sea that he was at the latitudes of Greenland and the southern tip of Baffin Island. Then he went nearly as far south as Bermuda. One of the eight-month trips from Seal Island covered 4,800 miles.

“That was particularly impressive to scientists because flying puffins beat their wings between 300 and 400 times a minute, expending far more energy than seabirds that soar. Cabot’s journey is an exciting reminder how oceans that seem vast to humans are an everyday backyard for the natural world. The original Cabot would have been quite impressed with the ability of the puffin to chart such a course, yet return unfailingly to the Maine island of his birth.”

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Category: All, Environment