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Puffins on the Rise

SMOOTH SAILING A puffin carrying fish to feed its chicks prepares to land on Eastern Egg Rock, Maine, in August. ROBERT F. BUKATY—AP

Atlantic puffins have made a comeback in Maine. For the second year in a row, more of these seabirds have been able to raise chicks there.

Some 3,000 puffins are living on rocky islands off Maine’s coast. According to scientists, only a quarter of the birds were able to raise chicks in 2021. That number is now closer to the usual three-quarters.

The good news comes as a surprise. Scientists had expected warming coastal waters to reduce the numbers of the fish that puffins rely on. But this year, there were plenty of small, eellike fishes called sand lances for puffins to eat.

Don Lyons is a scientist at the National Audubon Society. He says the news shows that people can’t always predict how climate change will affect an ecosystem. “This year is a good example of how complex things are. We can’t boil it down to one variable,” he says. “We still have a lot to learn.”

Scientists warn that the effects of climate change, such as heat waves and loss of food, are still a danger to birds. But at least for now, Maine’s puffins seem to be thriving, Lyons says: “Likely, the population is stable, and it could still be growing.”

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