Saturday, May 22, 2010

Atlantic Puffins and puffineers

The word puffineer is derived from the noun puffin, denoting seabird species in the auk family (Alcinae). During summer months, puffineers live in the midst of seabird colonies on islands off the coast of Maine [1], where they study the Atlantic Puffin. This bird species was almost extinct along the coast of the northeastern Unites States, but has successfully been re-introduced.

The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) is also known as the Common Puffin. The Atlantic Puffin's Range stretches from Novaya Zemlya, Svalbard, Norway, Iceland, the United Kingdom, and Ireland to Greenland and eastern Canada. Six nesting sites, such as Eastern Egg Rock, are currently established in Maine.

Nicknames for the Atlantic Puffins are “sea parrot” and “clown of the ocean,” referring to the circus-style behavior with a wobbly, slapstick walk and the colorful, facial markings. The German name, for example, is Papageitaucher [2], meaning diving parrot. Is there a German word for puffineer? Maybe the composed noun Papageitauchkundler.

[1] Michelle Nijhuis:
Comeback! Thanks to a young biologist's unconventional ideas, Atlantic puffins have returned to the United States. Smithsonian Magazine June 2010, Volume 41, Number 3, pp. 58-65.
[2] Grzimeks TierlebenAchter BandVögel 2, page 233.

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