Local Children Save Puffins at the Westman Islands in Iceland

Michael Chapman

Michael Chapman

It's finally time for the next generation of Iceland’s most famous bird, the Atlantic Puffin, to leave their cliffside nests and set out into adulthood. 

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As with previous years, local kids from the island town of Heimaey are providing these birds a helping hand in making sure this transition is as safe and easy as possible.   

Iceland’s most famous residents…

If you were to poke your nose into any one of the souvenir shops found along Reykjavik’s premiere shopping street, Laugavegur, you’ll quickly realise that Atlantic Puffins are the de facto mascot of this country. 

Having long provided Icelanders with a source of food and nutrition, attitudes have changed over recent years as more visitors arrive solely to see these colorfully billed, tuxedo-wearing animals for themselves.

With that said, these birds do not stay in Iceland permanently, despite the fact the Westman Islands is known for having the largest puffin colony in the world. Like many seabirds, puffins are migratory, choosing to spend the summer months in Iceland, where they nest and breed, while spending the winters alone out at sea. 

Why do young puffins need help?

Come August, when the Midnight Sun begins to ebb, young puffins that have, thus far, been dependent on their parents, are faced with leaving their nests for the first time. As most of us can no doubt recollect, this is a daunting prospect regardless of what species you so happen to be.

A puffin resting on a cliff side
Photo: Wikimedia. CC. Richard Bartz

Pufflings are known to become easily-distracted by lights from human settlements, and are often lost or injured on their way to the ocean. Thankfully, children living on the Westman Islands continue to uphold an age-old tradition of rescuing young puffins and nursing them back to health.

In droves, these environmentally-conscious kids hit the streets armed with cardboard boxes, picking up any stray puffins they come across. If they require it, birds spend as long as they need recuperating in temporary shelters before being taken to the beach and released into the wild. 

These efforts are important due to dwindling population numbers as a result of over-hunting. It also brings the community of the Westman Islands together, marking the end of summer and the onset of winter.

How can you see Puffins in Iceland?

If you are hoping to see Iceland’s Atlantic Puffins, then make sure to check out this fabulous RIB Boat tour from Husavik that also brings you up-close and personal to whales and harbour porpoises. If, on the other hand, you wish to pay a visit to the unique and stunning isles of Vestmannaeyjar, make sure to read more about available opportunities off the South Coast

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