Pi, the Atlantic Puffin

On the 6th of February 2019 we were running a Full-day birdwatching tour when Claudia, a friend of us, called to say that some friends of her have found a bird at Seixal beach and they were worried the tide was going up and the bird did not move, so it could be washed away. Claudia’s friends sent her a photo and Claudia told us it was not one of Madeira’s seabirds as she is used to watch them. It was a different bird which Claudia could not identify…

Coincidentally we were close by, about 5 minutes drive to that beach and so we decided to go there and check the bird. It was an Atlantic Puffin who was resting at the black sandy beach of Seixal. The bird was tired out and so it was quite easy for Hugo to pick it up. He showed the bird to the curious people around it and explained it is a species whose natural habitat is the cold northern seas, breeding in the areas between northwest Europe and eastern North America, so Madeira is a bit too south for this species. It could have been blown away by some strong winds and it was lucky to find a piece of land to rest.

We took the bird on a card box which we asked on a local bar, to try to take care of it, i.e., feed it and water it to see if it would fly out again. The bird was bit more active when we got home which filled us with hope but when we tried to feed it with small bits of Atlantic horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus it rejected it but it did drink the water we gave it through a straw. Later that day we tried to feed it again but unsuccessfully so we let it rest on the box. The next morning we sadly found the bird dead. Unfortunately Pi, the name gave to the Puffin by the customers running that Full-day birdwatching, was too exhausted to eat and to recover.

We conserved the bird on the freezer so that we can deliver it to the Funchal’s Natural History Museum and its skin can be part of the museum’s collection.