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Easternmost record of an Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica in the Mediterranean Sea on the coast of Israel

Annette L. Fayet 1*and Paolo Becciu2

* Correspondence author. Email:

1Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.

2Animal Flight Laboratory, Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, University of Haifa, 199 Aba Khoushy Ave., 3498838 Haifa, Israel.

Full paper


We report the finding of an Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica on the Mediterranean coast of Israel in September 2018. We use morphometrics and current knowledge of Puffin movements to infer that the bird is likely from the United Kingdom (UK) or Ireland. This record is over 1500 km further east than the easternmost recovery of a British or Irish ringed Atlantic Puffin in the Mediterranean Sea to date.


The Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica (hereafter ‘Puffin’) is a key species of North Atlantic breeding seabirds, with colonies all around the North Atlantic, the largest located in Iceland and Norway. Ringing recoveries over several decades suggest that a minority of birds from the western shores of the UK and Ireland winter in the Mediterranean Sea (Wernham et al. 2002). More recently, advances in tracking technology have allowed scientists to study the non-breeding movements of the species in detail, first from single populations (Anker-Nilssen & Aarvak 2009; Harris et al. 2010; Guilford et al. 2011; Jessopp et al. 2013; Fayet et al. 2016) then across their entire range (Fayet et al. 2017). These studies reveal that birds winter across the North Atlantic and adjoining seas, with key hotspots south of Greenland, in the Labrador Sea and around Iceland, and confirm that a proportion of birds breeding in Wales (18%) and Ireland (13%) spend the second half of the winter (December to February) in the western Mediterranean Sea, along the Spanish and French coasts, and no further east than Corsica and Sardinia (Jessopp et al. 2013; Fayet et al. 2016). Based on these two populations alone, over 10,000 adult Puffins may visit the Mediterranean Sea each winter. Puffin ringing recoveries in the Mediterranean Sea remain, however, relatively rare and are confined to the western Mediterranean, with the easternmost recovery of a Puffin from the UK coming from Sicily (Harris 1984). Here we report the discovery of a long-dead Puffin on the Mediterranean coast of Israel in September 2018 and discuss its likely provenance based on morphometrics and current knowledge of Puffin distributions.


We are grateful to the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History (SMNH) at Tel-Aviv University and particularly to Roi Dor, Amos Belmaker, and Daniel Berkowic, for letting us take measurements of the bird. We also thank the British Trust for Ornithology for providing information on previous recoveries of ringed Puffins, Mike Harris for his help aging the bird and improving the manuscript, Ela and Peleg Shilo who discovered the bird and reported it, and Graham Prescott for bringing the finding to our attention. A.L.F. is funded by The Queen’s College, Oxford.


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