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Browne Junior Research Fellow leads new puffin study

12 April 2017

New research finds that puffin pairs that follow similar migration routes breed more successfully the following season than puffins pairs that migrate independently. The new study, which features in the 7 April 2017 edition of Marine Ecology Progress Series, focused on whether puffin pairs stayed in contact during the winter months or migrated independently, prioritising their individual health and wellbeing.

Dr Annette Fayet, Browne Junior Research Fellow at Queen’s, is lead author of the study.  She says: ‘While migrating close to one’s partner leads to more successful breeding in puffins, female winter foraging effort seems to be even more critical to ensure high reproductive success.  A likely explanation for this finding is that female puffins which spend more time fuelling up over winter return to the colony in better condition and are able to lay higher quality eggs, rearing stronger chicks.

Overall it seems that prioritising individual condition is more important for seabirds’ breeding success than maintaining contact with their partner outside of the breeding season. However, following similar migration routes to one another may help synchronise returns to the breeding colony, which is known to be important for pair bond and breeding success in many migratory birds.’

Listen to Dr Annette Fayet interviewed about her research:

Radio: BBC World Service Newshour

(c.19:00 on the clock)

Read more about her work in the Queen’s Newsletter.

Photograph: Annette Fayet

Puffin pair