HUNDREDS of birdwatchers across the globe were heartbroken on Thursday afternoon when Shetland’s most famous puffin chick died.
Experts initially blamed the bird’s demise on a lack of food, but closer inspection has now revealed that the chick was attacked by another bird.
An investigation is now being carried out to find out who may have been responsible.
The short life of the tiny “puffling” had been the focus of attention for the past five weeks as the star of Puffincam, a tiny CCTV camera inside the burrow at the RSPB Sumburgh Head bird reserve.
People were able to witness the chick hatch live over the internet on 12 June, with its parents feeding it regularly ever since.
On Thursday morning RSPB staff in Shetland were alerted by online traffic that something untoward had happened.
Ms Moncrieff said she had hoped for a good news story this year after last year’s disappointment when the puffins abandoned their egg before it hatched.
“The chick was in good health but it has a wound on its back. It looks as though it was attacked, and we are assuming that this was done by another puffin, if not two.
“We’ve got an e-mail from somebody in Australia saying that at 8am this morning there was a lot of commotion going on.
“So rather than it being a food shortage, which certainly impacted on many other birds here at the colony, this has died as the result of an attack.”
Staff at Promote Shetland are in the process of downloading the footage of the last 24 hours to get a better idea of what had happened.
“I genuinely had hoped it would be okay this year. It grew reasonably quick, but should have been more moulted at this time. Then over the last couple of days we saw the down was coming off and the adult feathers were coming through,” she said.
Shetland’s world famous seabird colonies continue to suffer from a shortage of food, with climate change being blamed for the disappearance of the staple diet of sandeels from the islands’ shores.
Ms Moncrieff said the Puffincam had made a huge impact in promoting the isles to a worldwide audience.
She said she knew of people who had visited Shetland this year because they had come across Puffincam.
“I have spoken to people from Indianapolis, in America, who had come to Shetland. They had never heard of the isles until they had come across Puffincam on the internet, and booked a holiday here.
“It is definitely putting Shetland on the map and bringing folk here.”
Read Helen Moncrieff’s blog here.
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