by Ryley M.
As of April 2015, the Tufted Puffin is now a member of the endangered species list in Washington state. This popular bird, easily spotted by its white mask, orange beak, and spectacular swimming technique has been under close watch since 2004 for potential endangerment. Found along the coasts of Washington, California, Oregon, and Japan, the birds numbers have reduced dramatically due to human involvement.
Since their highest point around the 1900s, the puffin population has decreased around 85% from about 25,000 to about 4,000 throughout the West coast and Japan. While Oregon and California still maintain around 300 birds, Japans population is down to about 20 or 10 breeding pairs. This major change in population numbers is mainly due to humans unfortunately. Events such as oil spills, climate change, and commercial fishing all largely impact the Tufted Puffins. The warming of the ocean waters alters the fish patterns making it harder for the puffins to maintain their usual fishing routines. Also, the oil spills off the West Coast affect the puffins first. Due to there fishing technique, diving and sitting atop the water, the birds are some of the first to be impacted by the spill as they are unable to dive and swim in the oil filled water. Hundred of puffins die each oil spill reducing their population by extreme amounts each time.
Why are the reduced Tufted Puffin populations so important to the rest of the Washington coast as well as the rest of the world? The Tufted Puffins have long served as an indicator of the ocean and the coasts health. The unhealthy state of the puffins not only reflects upon the state of other shorebirds, but it indicates the impact human activity is having on the fish and the mammals.