06/08/2010
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ASBO Puffins

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ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) aim to reform the unruly ways of troublesome humans but, unfortunately, the same measures can't be applied to the bird world — much to the dismay of those following the fortunes of a 'puffling' on Shetland.

The behaviour of nesting Puffins is hard to monitor, as they raise their young out of sight in burrows. But since spring, thousands of people have been following one particular puffling at RSPB Scotland's Sumburgh Head reserve via a webcam broadcasting live images from its burrow.


The first appearance of the 'puffling' on the Shetland puffincam. (Film: promoteshetland)

The chick's survival has, at times, been uncertain as not only has the youngster been fed a rather poor diet, but it now seems to have been the victim of brutal attacks — by other Puffins!

On at least six occasions, a fully grown Puffin was seen entering the burrow and pecking, kicking and attacking the vulnerable youngster. The reason for the attacks is unclear, but it is believed that the attacking birds may be non-breeders who, unlike breeders, spend a lot of time above ground.

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Helen Moncrieff, RSPB Scotland Shetland warden, said: "The camera has been a great success. It has really lifted the lid on the hidden lives of these playful birds, revealing all sorts of behaviour, from scenes of tenderness between parent and chick, to discovering the youngster enjoys snacking on live centipedes. But what we never expected to see was any violence. As this anti-social behaviour has been captured on CCTV, we've nicknamed the intruder 'ASBO Puffin'."

"Thankfully, the chick recovered from the attacks and seems to be making good progress. It still has some downy feathers and is a little on the small side — possibly due to a poor diet of small and few sandeels — but it could leave the burrow any day now. It's been a privilege watching the Puffins and we hope to do it all again next year."

The puffincam is part of the charity's 'Date With Nature' at Sumburgh Head, offering people the chance to get up close and personal experiences with nature. To view the live puffincam visit www.rspb.org.uk/shetlandsummer.

As well as over 100,000 hits, RSPB and Promote Shetland have heard of people throwing parties for the chick hatching, a couple from London decided to holiday in Shetland after watching puffincam and a dental practice in Hannover, Germany, starts each day watching the live images.

Written by: RSPB