Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The global population is estimated to number more than 3.5 million individuals, equating to more than 2.3 million mature individuals (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
The population is thought to be stable (Partners in Flight 2019).
Incidental capture in fisheries likely played a major role in driving past decline and may continue to threaten the species in regions where pelagic drift-net fisheries still operate (e.g. Japanese and Russian waters) (Žydelis et al. 2013). In the 1980s, an estimated 123,000 birds per annum were caught in the squid driftnet fishery alone (deGange et al. 1993). While the numbers caught may have decreased in more recent years, Tufted Puffin remains one of the most frequently caught birds, and concern over impacts on the species has been raised in both Russia and Japan (BirdLife International 2010).
Climate change poses an ongoing and future threat to the species due to high sensitivity to changes in sea surface temperature (SST). Gjerdrum et al. (2003) used reproductive data from 1975-2002 to show that extreme variation in reproductive performance was related to changes in SST, via changes in prey fish abundance and distribution being linked to decreased growth rates and fledging success. When SST exceeded 9.9 °C, fledging success was virtually zero. With further warming, the largest colony in Canada (Triangle Island colony) could be rendered unsuitable as a breeding site. A lack of suitable islands for Tufted Puffins to colonise and restrictions on current range, is thought to be threatening populations in several areas, including Washington (Gjerdrum et al. 2003). However, Morrison et al. (2011) found no effect of extreme climatic events (1997-98, 2005-06) on adult survival rates on Triangle Island. Hence the severity of impact of climatic changes remains uncertain.
Predation by introduced species has had severe impacts in certain parts of the species’ range. Rats Rattus spp. depredate eggs and chicks and were likely responsible for the decline and redistribution of populations on Langara, St. James and Queen Charlotte Islands (Piatt and Kitaysky 2002). Tufted Puffins were not present on the so-called 'Rat Island' (Hawadax) in 2008, but following rat eradication, the puffins recolonised the island and bred successfully in 2013 (Secretariat 2017). Red Vulpes vulpes and Arctic Fox V. lagopus are present on the Commander Islands, Alaska and were likely responsible for the drastic reductions in population size through preying on both chicks and adult birds (Piatt and Kitaysky 2002). On Shaiak, only two adult Red Foxes were recorded, suggesting that the predation pressure can be very high despite low numbers of predators. Tufted Puffins are not found on islands with significant numbers of foxes, but are normally able to recolonise after fox eradication (Bailey 1993).
The species is also at risk from oil spills. The Exxon Valdez spill (1989) is thought to have caused the mortality of 13,000 individuals (through starvation), and the Tenyo Maru oil spill (1991) may have claimed as much as 9% of the Washington population. Frequent oil spills have been implicated as playing a significant role in the historic population declines in California (Piatt and Kitaysky 2002).
Tufted Puffins are sensitive to disturbance during breeding, and human intrusions associated with research and recreational activities may pose a considerable threat (Pierce and Simmons 1986, Whidden et al. 2007). Fledging success has been found to be significantly lower in heavily disturbed areas than in undisturbed ones (18% as compared to 94%), with e.g. frequent visitation and egg handling leading to lengthened incubation period, resulting in lighter chicks with shorter wings (Pierce and Simons 1986), and occasional desertion of nests (Amaral 1977, Wehle 1980, Pierce and Simons 1986). Fitting of transmitters have also been associated with negative effects on breeding success (Whidden et al. 2007).
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Fjagesund, T., Martin, R. & Palmer-Newton, A.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Fratercula cirrhata. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/tufted-puffin-fratercula-cirrhata on 04/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 04/12/2023.