Rat race to save puffins
IT was a lucky catch that's becoming all the more rare.
Our picture shows Dr Michelle Cronin of the Marine Resources Centre in University College Cork measuring the bill of a captured puffin on Skellig Michael, Co Kerry.
However, bird-watching experts believe that in the east of the country the famous seabirds are under threat because of rats eating their eggs. Conservationists say fewer birds are returning to breed on sites such as Ireland's Eye and the Saltee Islands now than almost a decade ago, when the last survey on their numbers revealed that around 21,000 pairs of puffins were nesting around Ireland.
"We need to get the rats off these islands," Stephen Newton of Birdwatch Ireland said. "They can be removed; it costs a bit of money and takes quite a bit of effort and poison."
Puffins are mostly found on islands and spend most of the winter at sea. They arrive at their breeding sites in late April.
The birds tend to pair for life and each year they use the same nesting burrow to lay a single egg.