Heimaey is a small island off the coast of Iceland. Each spring, more than a million Atlantic puffins visit Heimaey and its neighboring islands. They go there to breed.
The puffins build nests on seaside cliffs. When a puffling, or chick, hatches, it spends six weeks in its nest. Then it leaves the nest and flies to sea.
SEA PARROT An adult puffin perches on a cliff in Iceland.
Instinct tells pufflings to follow the light of the moon to the ocean. But the birds can be confused by Heimaey’s bright lights. They fly toward the lights instead of the moon. Many pufflings get lost. These lost birds can be hit by cars. Some are eaten by cats. The birds need help.
Children in Heimaey have teamed up to help puffins. Each breeding season, the kids form search parties. They carry flashlights and cardboard boxes. They are known as the Puffling Patrol.
“When you see a bird, you try to corner it and herd it into the box,” Eldur Hansen told TIME for Kids. He’s 15. Eldur has caught several birds this way. Nobody knows how the Puffling Patrol started. But each year, it rescues thousands of chicks.
The Puffling Patrol takes rescued puffins to the beach. But first, kids take the birds to an aquarium. There, the pufflings are weighed and tagged. This helps scientists learn more about puffins.
Puffins are a vulnerable species. That means they could soon become endangered. But Stephen Kress says the Puffling Patrol gives him hope. Kress is a conservationist. “People can make a difference,” he says.