BIRDS – The Fabulous Puffin and disputed Machias Seal Island


Everyone loves the Puffin. With its unique, colorful beak and contrasting body colors, it can only be called “cute”. In flight it resembles a stubby cigar with inadequate wings. Nevertheless, the Atlantic Puffin is a successful Bay of Fundy seabird that is best known as a resident of Machias Seal Island … its principal nesting area.

Despite being claimed by the United States, Canada maintains its ownership with a presence on this disputed island including establishing rules that protect the puffins and other nesting seabird.

The United States has never recognized the construction and continuous occupation of a lighthouse since 1832 by the United Kingdom, and now Canada, to determine the island’s ownership, citing several cases worldwide (e.g., a case concerning the Red Sea). However, the United States has never maintained an ongoing presence on the island as Canada has and, until recent decades, many branches of the federal and state of Maine governments were inconsistent in their communications: they sometimes have referred to Machias Seal Island as being owned by Canada.

Machias Seal Island (Wikipedia)

In 1918, with Canadian agreement, a small detachment of Marines was placed on the island following the U.S. entry into the First World War, as a means to assist in protecting the territory and its key lighthouse guarding the entrance to the Bay of Fundy from German U-boat attack. These forces were withdrawn after several months, and no U.S. presence has been re-established since. Several private citizens in Maine have staked ownership claims of the island, and American tour boat operators from Jonesport and Cutler bringing tourists to view seabirds have maintained their sovereignty in light of some Canadian conservation measures in the seabird sanctuary, such as removing a wharf (slip), and limits to visitors during sensitive periods for birds. Several skirmishes have arisen over lobster fishing rights in recent decades.

The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) is a seabird species in the auk family. It is a pelagic bird that feeds primarily by diving for fish, but also eats other sea creatures, such as squid and crustaceans. Its most obvious characteristic is its brightly colored beak during the breeding seasons. Also known as the Common Puffin, it is the only puffin species which is found in the Atlantic Ocean. The curious appearance of the bird, with its colorful huge bill and its striking piebald plumage, has given rise to nicknames such as “clown of the ocean” and “sea parrot”.

Quotes and photos are from Wikipedia. 

One thought on “BIRDS – The Fabulous Puffin and disputed Machias Seal Island

  1. Hi Art – I thought it was about time that I did a post on puffins. Seeing as I’m not a birder at all, I hope you don;t mind that I borrowed a photo from your blog> I’ll link back to you on the post.
    Hope things are going well for you, Terri


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