Quantifying variability in the colour of breeding ornamentation within a population of adult Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) on Machias Seal Island, Canada

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University of New Brunswick


The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) is an iconic seabird in the North Atlantic, due to its’ colourful feet and bill. Puffins shed their ornamentation and become drab in colour at the end of every breeding season in preparation for overwintering at sea, only to rebuild ornamentation the following spring. This study was the first to quantify colouration in breeding ornamentation of the Atlantic Puffin as a measure of individual quality and variability within a population. The coefficient of variation among six regions of ornamentation measured in this study ranged from 10.09% to 34.13% across three colour sensors (RGB) and brightness for the population (n=44). A positive relationship between individual brightness of ornamentation and body mass was found in four out of the six regions. These preliminary findings set the groundwork for further analysis concerning the relationship between colour intensity of breeding ornamentation and individual quality in the Atlantic Puffin.