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Puffin picture plea: Snaps needed to help save endangered seabirds

People with a keen photographic eye are being asked to join the "puffarazzi" and snap pictures of puffins with fish in their bills to help find out what the seabirds are feeding their young.

In a continuation of a citizen science scheme launched in 2017, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is asking for help in its bid to identify areas where the threatened species are struggling to find the large stocks of nutritious fish it needs to feed their chicks.

More than 600 people sent in 1,402 photos from almost 40 colonies in the first year of the project, and researchers want an even greater number of submissions across the spring and summer of 2019 and 2020.

Image: The puffin population has declined in recent years

Historical images of the so-called clowns of the sea with a beak full of food are just as welcome as new ones, so long as the year and the place of where they were taken is known.

Even pre-digital photos can be submitted, as there is an increasingly urgent desire to help track how puffin food sources have changed over time amid a sharp decline in population size.

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Puffins are now globally listed as vulnerable to extinction, with concerns they may be facing a reduction in available food in the UK as a result of climate change.

The RSPB said the seabirds faced a "bleak future" without a dramatic turnaround in fortune.

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Ellie Owen, who is leading the photo scheme, said: "We're so excited that puffarazzi is back. The response last time was overwhelming and it's thanks to this success that we've expanded the project.

"Puffins are facing a bleak future and we want to change that, which is why we need to learn more about how puffin food stocks have changed over the years.

"We're asking you to dig around in your photo albums and digital files and to send us any applicable photos you have, however old they are. However big or small the fish in the photo is, it will be really useful for us."

Puffin populations are on the wane
Image: Climate change has been blamed for concerns over the future of puffins

Scientists aim to uncover why puffin population is on the wane

Scientists aim to uncover why puffin population is on the wane

While the endangered seabirds are thriving in parts of the UK, their numbers in other parts of the world are on the wane

Children as young as 11 took part in the scheme two years ago and all ages are welcome once again – so long as they follow the safety guidelines provided on the RSPB website.

They include staying at least five metres away from the birds at all times, keeping noise to a minimum, and not walking over or near their burrows.

Photos can be submitted at rspb.org.uk.projectpuffinUK.

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