Online Archive  
Issue 4 - April 1972
Bodies of puffins, those comical little sea birds with orange, blue and yellow bills, are being washed up on Northumberland beaches.

There is now a serious danger that the puffin may soon become as extinct as its near cousin, the Great Auk.

For reports from two of the puffin's favourite breeding grounds at St Kilda and the Shiants in the Outer Hebrides, indicate that some huge disaster may have overtaken the little bird.

In little more than a decade, say experts, the population of puffins, or "sea parrots", as they are known to sailors, has fallen from millions to just tens of thousands.

And now the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has launched an investigation in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy Board to try and find out whatever happened to the puffin.

Mr Colin Bibby, a research biologist, speaking from RSPB headquarters at Sandy in Bedfordshire, said: "The alarming possibility is that chemical pollution of the sea may have led to the deaths of millions of birds.

"Who knows what's being dumped into the sea at this moment, to be discovered only five years later?" he asked.

The RSPB is worried that there may have been a holocaust on the scale of autumn 1969, when 17,000 dead guillemots were washed up on Welsh and English beaches from the Irish Sea.