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Stephen W. Kress

Return flight

Published in 1987clockTime to read: 50s
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Hunters and fishermen almost eradicated Atlantic puffins from Maine's offshore islands in the 19th century but Stephen Kress's innovative techniques have brought them back.

locationUnited States

Ornithologist Stephen Kress’s dedication to Atlantic puffins and imaginative techniques for re-establishing their colonies on Maine's Muscongus Bay have inspired rescue projects for 48 other bird species in 14 countries. His Project Puffin, now called the Seabird Restoration Program, has grown to be a key part of the National Audubon Society’s Science Department. His signature social attraction strategy – involving mirrors, decoys resembling adult birds, counterfeit eggs, recorded sounds of active colonies, even species’ mating perfumes – is used for both seabirds and terrestrial birds. Today, in Muscongus Bay, 1,000 puffin pairs are breeding on five islands, including those where hunters had exterminated them by 1895.

We can’t wait for nature to regain balance. This myth leads to idle neglect. Responsible, thoughtful action is the only reasonable conservation option to halt extinction.

Kress is delighted with the army of research students using his methods worldwide. Each year, the Seabird Restoration Program trains about 20 interns; 500 students have been trained over the project’s 40-year history. He has chronicled his successes and setbacks in a 2015 book, Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock. Kress is Vice President for Bird Conservation at America’s National Audubon Society and a field instructor in ornithology at Cornell University.

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