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Bringing Puffins Back to Maine - With Stephen Kress

Decoys did the trick!
© Project Puffin View Large

In 1977, Stephen Kress used a creative approach to reintroduce Atlantic Puffins to Eastern Egg Rock, an island in Maine’s Muscongus Bay: decoys! It had been 100 years since these charismatic birds had inhabited the island. Today, thanks to the continuing work by Dr. Kress and Project Puffin, the island is home to more than 100 nesting pairs of Atlantic Puffins.

Full Transcript



Bringing Puffins Back to Maine Islands

Featuring Dr. Stephen Kress of Project Puffin

Interview by Chris and Todd Peterson

This is BirdNote.

[Waves breaking on the shore]

They had been gone from the island for a hundred years. 

But in 1973 Dr. Stephen Kress reintroduced six Atlantic Puffin chicks to Eastern Egg Rock, an island in Maine’s Muscongus Bay. He nurtured them by leaving fish in their underground burrows. A few weeks later, the birds fledged, departing at night for the open sea.

Knowing puffins return to the spot where they fledge, he and his team waited. 

For four years, no puffins returned.

Here’s Dr. Kress: 

“So in 1977, I began trying to think more like a puffin. And I began to try to imagine what it must be like for a puffin that would head off to sea, come back, and find no other puffins at the island. And of course there hadn’t been any other puffins for 100 years, so what would this puffin think? Would it even take a chance about coming ashore? And I began to realize that normally a young puffin coming home would find other puffins. It would be attracted to them…perhaps interact with them, and become comfortable at that location. And I was concerned that maybe some of my puffins were coming back but not coming ashore, and that’s when I decided that I would try to put out some decoys.”

The decoys worked. [Puffins are social creatures and they recognized their kind.] Now the island, with much continuing work by Dr. Kress and Project Puffin, is home to more than 100 nesting pairs. [Calls of Atlantic Puffin adult and the piping of young] 

There’s much more about Project Puffin’s groundbreaking work at


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call (groan) of Atlantic Puffin adult with piping of young [62361] recorded in nest burrow by W.W.H. Gunn.

Wave action feature is Nature Essentials SFX #21 recorded by Gordon Hempton of Ambient waves recorded by C. Peterson at Hog Island, Maine. 

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2013 Tune In to  November 2013  Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#  projectpuffin-02-2013-11-04   projectpuffin-02      Zoom Disk 1 Track 5 5:37 

Sights & Sounds

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