Wintering areas of adult Atlantic puffins Fratercula arctica from a North Sea colony as revealed by geolocation technology
Most seabirds die outside the breeding season, but understanding the key factors involved is hampered by limited knowledge of nonbreeding distributions. We used miniature geolocating loggers to examine the movements between breeding seasons of Atlantic puffins Fratercula arctica from a major North Sea colony where numbers have declined in recent years, apparently due to increased overwinter mortality. The most intensively used region was the northwestern North Sea but most puffins also made excursions into the east Atlantic in the early winter. Ringing recoveries previously indicated that adults from British east coast colonies remained within the North Sea and hence were spatially segregated from those breeding on the west throughout the year. Updated analyses of ringing recoveries support results from geolocators suggesting that usage of Atlantic waters is a recent phenomenon. We propose that the increased adult mortality is related to changes in distribution during the nonbreeding period and reflects worsening conditions in the North Sea.