A student from the University of Nottingham, U.K., discovered that the large parrot-like beaks of puffins, birds native to the seas, glow brightly under ultraviolet (UV) light. Working on a dead specimen of an Atlantic Puffin, endemic to the Atlantic, Jamie Dunning wondered if the black and white feathers of the seabird were also bio-fluorescent like that of crested auklets, their close relatives. He shined UV light on the specimen and found that the beak of the creature, not feathers, glows in orange, just like a bright Christmas tree. "I was so excited," Dunning told National Geographic. As the phenomenon was never observed in an Atlantic puffin before, the Ph.D. student was quick to document and submit the observation for peer review.
While on vacation with her husband in the Shetland Islands in Scotland, Julie Barry made a new friend. An Atlantic puffin found its way through a fence and wandered over to where Barry was sitting photographing the birds. It is likely the puffin was looking to breed, as breeding is the only reason puffins go to land. In the video, which Barry captured on her phone, the puffin ducks under the fence and waddles curiously to Barry's bag and eventually under her leg. It looks around for a few minutes before strolling away.
Puffins are seabirds with colorful beaks that are popular with birdwatchers because of their unique appearance. The adults fly out to catch fish to feed their young, which stay behind in burrows. Researchers began monitoring the Machias Seal Island colony, which is 20 miles south of Machias and home to more than 5,000 pairs of puffins, in 1995.
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Puffin numbers around Britain's coasts are expected to decline by as much as 70 per cent in the next 40 years, conservationists warn. The RSPB is hoping to enlist members of the public to help the comical seabird survive – by taking pictures of the birds eating fish. Changes in the types of fish around the British coast are thought to be the main threat to puffins. The birds are classed as'vulnerable' on the threatened species list by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It is hoped that experts will be able to identify the types of fish the birds are catching – and feeding their chicks in June and July.