Atlantic Puffins come ashore to breed in late April and begin
returning to the sea in August. Some linger into September, but
the fruitful season for visitation is only about a dozen weeks
long. Tours begin at the end of May and usually finish for the
season in mid August.
Puffins are truly pelagic. When fledged, young puffins will not
return to land until they are mature enough to breed about
five years later. Once they leave their islands, all the puffins
disperse across the ocean and are seldom seen, even from boats.
Puffins are rarely seen from the mainland.
Puffins are abundant from Newfoundland to Iceland to Scotland,
spanning the cold regions of the North Atlantic. Maine is
historically the southern edge of their breeding range. A
century ago, puffins were nearly eliminated from the state as
the colorful birds were prized for their feathers and their eggs
were gathered for the dinner table. In 1973, the Puffin Project
was established in an attempt to bring them back to their
historical range. Although the project has been a resounding
success, major threats still remain. Open air dumps in the 1900s
caused an overpopulation of gulls, which competed for space on nesting
islands and they often preyed upon puffin chicks. Gulls remain a
significant obstacle. Food resources are also in great peril.
Overfishing and the elimination of spawning habitat has greatly
diminished herring and other small fish species relied upon by
Puffins are members of the alcidae family. Other alcids on the
east coast include Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Common Murres,
Thick-billed Murres, and Dovekies. The latter two species do not
nest in Maine but are seen in Maine waters in winter. Razorbills
nest on four of the puffin islands, as well as a couple of other
islands in downeast Maine. Common Murres frequent puffin
colonies and nesting may occur on the northernmost of the five
puffin colonies. Black Guillemots are the only alcid to nest
along mainland cliffs and are readily seen from shore along the
are five Atlantic Puffin colonies along the Maine coast. Three
are frequently visited, two are sporadically visited. Only one
allows visitors to land. Each has a unique mix of other prized
species that birders often hope to find in Maine, including
Great Cormorants and the endangered Roseate Tern. When planning
a puffin trip, it is best to get to know each of the islands and
select the adventure that most suits travel plans.
►Eastern Egg Rock
►Machias Seal Island
are also much sought after in
Maine. Birds of the northern forest are present in most
other states that border Canada, but no state can
compete with Maine's ocean.
Maine is home to Black-backed and American Three-toed
Woodpeckers, Spruce Grouse, Gray Jays, Boreal
Chickadees, and an assortment of northern warblers and
finches that rely on spruce/fir forests.
A birding excursion that hopes to find ocean birds and
boreal birds requires thought, as these species are
seldom co-located. For proper trip planning, see Boreal