S. Erin Whidden

Patterns of Natal Recruitment in an Atlantic Puffin Colony

Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Biology
University of New Brunswick, Fredericton

Brief Abstract of Research:

Atlantic Puffins in the fog at Machias Seal Island (photo by Erin Whidden).When adult survival is high and stable in seabird populations, bottom-up forces prevail and reproductive success and subsequent natal recruitment will govern local population dynamics. The process of natal recruitment for long-lived species with delayed maturity can occur over several years and is therefore inherently complex. As such, factors affecting such a process must be many.

Juveniles returning to the island and breeding for the first time must decide where to do so based on information gathered prior to breeding. Some information about their natal colony is undoubtedly obtained during their hatch year.

Puffins on MSI present an ideal case for studying this process in seabirds; several hundred chicks are captured and tagged each year on the island and returning birds are identified by their unique tags in subsequent years.

I propose to test whether conditions during an individual’s hatch year affect the likelihood of returning to their natal colony to breed.Erin Whidden. (Photo by Sarah Trefry)


  • Whidden, S. E., C. T. Williams, A. R. Breton, and C. L. Buck. 2007. Effects of transmitters on the reproductive success of Tufted Puffins.  Journal of Field Ornithology 78:206–212.