100,000 puffins have returned to this island to mate for life

Roughly 100,000 puffins returned to the Isle of May nature reserve in the United Kingdom after migrating for eight months at sea. 

The puffins typically leave the isle, located five miles off the Fife Coast, around August. They spend their winter months caring for their young around the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The returning of the flock usually signals the beginning of spring. While they only spend about four months on the isle, the puffins, who mate for life, come back to their old nests to breed.

You might notice that some of the puffins look different than you might expect. That’s because they’re still sporting their winter plumage. During winter, the face pattern becomes darker (even black), and the bill can be more constricted than it is during warmer months. Once breeding season gets going, the birds will moult, and their faces will return to a beaming white color. Each puffin pair then begins incubating a single egg.  

The Isle of May is owned by the Scottish National Heritage and has a vast array of wildlife, which includes about 200,000 seabirds. It is the home of the largest puffin colony on the east coast of Britain. 

According to Anstruther Pleasure Cruises’ website, “the first human settlers arrived in Fife about 8,000 years ago and made good use of the May Island for fishing and seal hunting. The earliest find of human activity that has so far been found on the Isle is a piece of pottery dated 2,000 B.C.”

The name of the island is believed to follow a name given by Norsemen. They referred to the location as Maa Oy, which translates from Norse to “gull island.”

If you enjoyed this story, you might like to read about these penguins who visit other animals during rare aquarium ‘field trip’.

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