The Puffin Patrol is a volunteer-based group that rescues fledgling Fratercula arctica (Atlantic Puffin) stranded in coastal communities overlooking the Witless Bay Seabird Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland, Canada, which hosts the two largest Atlantic Puffin colonies in North America. We examine local environmental factors (visibility, moon phase) that may influence light attraction in Atlantic Puffins and explore the use of weight data and other information collected through this volunteer-based initiative to help monitor the health of this important population. In 2011, only 13 live Atlantic Puffins were captured despite nightly search efforts throughout the fledging period; this low capture rate was attributed to poor breeding success at the colony. In contrast, in 2012, 414 live fledgling puffins were captured and successfully released between 6 August and 5 September; 388 of these were banded and weighed prior to release. Capture rates on nights with poor visibility due to fog (26 fledglings per night) were similar to fogless nights (24 fledglings per night). Most live Atlantic Puffins were captured within a two-week period around the new moon. Fledglings weighed 248 ± 25 (SD) g, range = 160–315 g; weights significantly declined over the fledging period. In addition to the direct conservation benefits of saving grounded Atlantic Puffins, information collected through this volunteer-based initiative 1) provides insight on factors affecting Atlantic Puffins' attraction to coastal communities, 2) shows the importance of mitigating artificial light during the birds' fledging period within these developing communities, and 3) helps collect important demographic information without causing additional disturbance to the colonies.
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Vol. 20 • No. 4