Biology Question #9440
Zack, a 39 year old male from LOS ANGELES asks on December 1, 2017,
The puffin has always been my favorite bird. Not just because they are so cute, but also because they are monogamous and seem to share in the raising of their pufflings. I have always wondered, though, what happens when a puffin loses his or her mate, maybe because of changing migration patterns, a surprise gull attack, etc.?
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Michelle G. Fitzsimmons
answered on December 2, 2017
Puffins generally mate for life, however, circumstances do arise that prevent this. A partner could die during the winter migration or during the breeding season for a number of reasons such as predation, illness, etc. Partners can also separate because of a "divorce." If one partner is not keeping up with their duties in parenting a couple may split up. This does happen on occasion, although switching partners can be difficult and the costs of finding a new partner may not outweigh the benefits.
If a puffin does need to find another partner, they will often pair with a close neighbor - an individual they have been able to assess for quality over the years, because they maintain the same burrow for nesting year after year so they do get to know the neighbours. There are also prospectors -- younger puffins in their first 4-5 years of life before they start to mate -- who hang around the colonies looking for potential future mates and burrows. Find out more about puffins at the CBC website, The Nature of Things, Puffin Patrol
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