Tufted Puffin

The Tufted Puffin, one of Oregon’s most iconic and beloved seabirds, has been disappearing from Oregon’s shores at an alarming rate. In 1998, the population was nearly 5,000 strong. In 2021, that number dropped to just 553, a rapid decline that demands action. Currently, the Tufted Puffin is listed as endangered in Washington State, sensitive in Oregon, and a species of special concern in California.

Today, Three Arch Rocks in Tillamook County hosts the largest colony—about 40%—of Oregon’s remaining Tufted Puffin population. Farther north at Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock serves as one of the Northwest’s most accessible locations to observe puffins during breeding season, despite their declining population—from 312 birds counted in 1988 to 106 counted in 2023.

Bird Alliance of Oregon is currently working with stakeholders in Washington, Oregon, and California, to align our strategies and work to increase Tufted Puffin populations in Oregon where they have the fewest protections and the fastest declining numbers.

Tufted Puffin in flight with fish
Tufted Puffin / Eric Ellingson

Threats to the Tufted Puffin

Tufted Puffin decline along the southern portion of their range is not fully understood. There are a number of likely stressors that are thought to contribute to their decline including warming ocean temperatures related to climate change, reduced forage fish for them to eat, and pollution and invasive species, which can severely alter their breeding habitat.

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Work to Protect the Tufted Puffin

Since our founding, Bird Alliance of Oregon has prioritized the preservation of our ocean habitat, including our rocky shores. In 1907, we successfully advocated to President Teddy Roosevelt to protect Three Arch Rocks, declaring it one of the first National Wildlife Refuges in the west. Today, 40% of Oregon’s Tufted Puffin population can be found nesting at Three Arch Rocks.

In early 2024, National Audubon’s Tufted Puffin Coordinator, Katherine Luscher, coordinated a 20-member stakeholder group including Bird Alliance of Oregon, USFWS, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, American Bird Conservancy, Oregon State University, Oikonos, Haystack Rock Awareness Program, and others to begin discussions on present and future priorities for Tufted Puffin conservation. The coordinated work now being developed will address the decline of the Tufted Puffin by advocating for stronger policies to protect this bird and their habitat, as well as coordinate science-based management strategies that will—if successful—restore and maintain self-sustaining populations of Tufted Puffins within their historic range. In addition to the continuation of research and surveys, the coalition is prioritizing specific conservation actions that will include direct, hands-on activities like invasive species removal, social attraction (e.g., using decoys to attract Tufted Puffins to viable breeding grounds), placement of nest boxes, soil amendments, and appropriate management of predators.

Tufted Puffins
Tufted Puffins, photo by Isaac Sanchez.

Other examples of our work that benefits the Tufted Puffin include:

  • Member of Oregon Tufted Puffin Working Group
  • Increasing protections for forage fish in state and Federal waters, helping to preserve Tufted Puffin prey
  • Establishing Oregon’s first five Marine Reserves, helping to create nurseries to stabilize and increase forage fish populations
  • Protecting rocky habitat sites along the coast