PORTLAND, Maine – Two high-definition cameras began streaming live video Wednesday of clownlike Atlantic puffins waddling, preening and nesting on a remote Maine island.
The National Audubon Society and explore.org teamed up to stream video from Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge to anyone with an Internet connection. Located about 20 miles offshore, the island has the largest puffin colony in the U.S.
The goal is to engage the public and spur interest in seabird restoration, said Steve Kress, director of Audubon’s seabird restoration program.
“About a third of all seabird species in the world are threatened with extinction,” Kress said.
The Atlantic puffin is sometimes called the “clown of the sea” with its colorful striped beak, its diminutive stature and the comical way it waddles.
The birds live across a vast expanse of the North Atlantic from Maine to northern Russia, but they almost disappeared from Maine when settlers hunted them to near-extinction for food and feathers in the 1800s.
Today, puffins breed on five Maine islands, with Seal Island having the largest population, about 550 pairs. The birds arrive each April and leave in August, spending the rest of their lives at sea.
Scientists count 3 million to 4 million pairs of Atlantic puffins worldwide.