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RSPB appeal for public's pictures of puffins

Puffin in flight Image copyright Sam Aston / RSPB
Image caption The RSPB is asking photographers to upload their pictures to a special website

The RSPB has appealed for photographs of puffins feeding to help scientists discover why the bird's numbers have fallen to dangerously low levels.

Visitors to the charity's reserve in Bempton, East Yorkshire can upload their images to a special website.

The Atlantic puffin is a "Red List" threatened species and numbers across the UK are rapidly declining.

Researchers hope analysing the birds' diets could help explain why numbers have dropped in some areas.

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Images from Bempton, where colony numbers are holding steady, will be compared to other sites where the birds are struggling.

Image caption Bempton's puffin population is holding steady according to the RSPB

A recent report by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee said that the puffin's decline was due to a reduction in its food supply of small fish and its vulnerability to oil spills.

They have been listed as vulnerable to extinction, the lowest of three categories behind critically endangered and endangered.

The RSPB's Ali Barratt said the research is especially important at this time of year as puffin chicks are about to hatch.

"The society as a whole can look at what puffins are eating in different parts of the UK," she said.

"See if there are any differences and see if there any things that we wouldn't expect and to try and build a picture of ocean health around our island".

Image copyright Andrew Pearson / RSPB
Image caption Scientists want to investigate possible links between puffins' food source and a fall in their numbers

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