The first week of May saw a marked increase in puffin presence on land on the cameras, likely following egg laying recently. Like many of us, the puffins indulged in some gardening over the recent long bank holiday weekend, removing plant matter and earth from the burrow entrances and giving the surrounding area a bit of a tidy up. Here at the Alderney Wildlife Trust we have been monitoring the puffins' behaviour to estimate when eggs might start hatching.
The birds were also still rafting at sea in good numbers, possibly joined by immature birds not yet ready to breed (being long lived, puffins do not breed until they are about five years old, but can live past 20). These younger birds tend to drift between colonies, looking out for good places to feed and later nest. They will form pair bonds ready for when they will raise a chick too, mating for life.
As the puffins get busier we have picked out some different behaviour to look out for. Now most eggs will have been laid some of the parents-to-be will start ‘standing guard’. The puffins stand up tall with their chest puffed out near the burrow entrance and even march back and forth with exaggerated movements. If another puffin (or a rabbit) ventures too close they put their heads down and charge at their rival.
Puffins just passing by on the way to their own burrow will scurry past with their head down, showing they don’t want a fight!
If you do see two puffins engaged in a fight it is unlikely to do much damage. The birds may lock beaks and kick out at each other with their feet or beat their wings.
This is not to be confused with the pair bonding behaviour of billing – when a couple gently rub bills to re-establish their pond with each other.
If you watch the cameras for long you will have seen that the birds can be quite clumsy as they land. You may have seen they also leave their wings outstretched and flap about just after the land. This is thought to show it has just landed and is not there to interfere with any of the other puffins in the colony.