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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Breeding Colonies

Machias Seal Island

Bonaventure Island

Cape St. Mary

Witless Bay

Bird Island



Breeding Colonies

Machias Seal Island

Down East Maine

Comments to webmaster

Atlantic Puffin on Machias Seal Island EB Tarry

Atlantic Puffin on Machias Seal Island  EB Tarry.

What Do You See
You can observe at very close range breeding: Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Common Tern, Arctic Tern and Common Murres. Leach's Storm-petrel also breeds on the island, but is not usually seen because they enter and leave the nesting burrow at night. A few pairs of Common Eiders breed on the island.As the boat approaches the island, you will all these birds on the water and flying into the island. You may also see Manx, Sooty, and Greater Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Northern Gannet on the boat trip to the island. Bald Eagles may be seen in the harbor.

Machias Seal Island is a 15 acre island in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of Maine and just south of Grand Manan. The island is currently occupied and managed by the Canadian Coast Guard although the United States claims ownership of the island. For more about the history of the island see

Maine has a wonderful web site for birders called The Maine Birding Trail. See Down East Machias

When to Visit
The best time to visit is between the middle of June and the middle of July. The Puffins can be on the island from early June and immature Puffins are seen in the water around the island until mid August, but after the young Puffins leave the burrow the adults tend to move off.

Getting to the Island
A visit takes about half a day. There is plenty of other birding in the area to fill the rest of the day or you can drive back to Boston after the trip. The trip is appropriate for children old enough to remain quiet in a blind for 20 minutes and non-birding adults.

A visit requires a 45 minutes to 2 hour boat trip depending on port of departure. . The boat trip can cause motion sickness in the unprepared. If any trip is worth enduring sea sickness, it is this one. If you suffer from sea sickness consider taking the shortest trip from Cutler, ME.

A limited number of people are allowed to land on the island and will be escorted to bird blinds where they can observe the Puffins at very close range. Puffins will even walk on the roof of the blind while you are in it. Photographers will surely want to land.

Those who do not land on the island will view the birds from the water and you will see many birds at close range to the skiff.

Trips are sometimes cancelled because of weather conditions and landing on the island is dependent on conditions as well.

P.O. BOX 364
CUTLER, ME 04626

Alcids - Puffins, Razorbills, Murres

Atlantic Puffin

The stars of a trip to Machias Seal Island are the Atlantic Puffins.  They are beloved for their comical expressions and friendly behavior.The colorful bill is found only on breeding adults both male and female.

Those lucky enough to get to land on the island will view the Puffins at close range from the blind. Most of these pictures were taken from the blind.


Atlantic Puffin close up of bill EB Tarry
Atlantic Puffin immature


Left immature Puffin.  If your trip is late in July, you may see immature puffins still on land. All of the adults and most of the immature puffins will have taken to the water by this time.

Puffin numbers on the island are declining probably because of overfishing which means the adults have to fly further and further to find enough food to feed their young.

For more information on Puffins see the page devoted to Puffins under Alcids.


Razorbills Machias Seal Island EB Tarry

These too are handsome birds.  If you are lucky you will see the yellow lining of the mouth.  Both photos by Emmalee Tarry on Machias Seal Island.

Razorbill  Machias Seal Island EB Tarry

Common Murres
There are only a few common Murres breeding on the island and most stay away from the blinds. You will probably be able to get pictures of them too as did the webmaster on one of 8 trips to the island.

Common Murre and Razorbill EB Tarry Machias SI

Common Murre with Razorbill on the right. Photo on the right has Puffins, Razorbills and one Common Murre. Can you find the Murre?  Answer mouse over.


Terns  - Arctic and Common Terns

Common Murre and Razorbill Machias Seal Island
Arctic Tern on MSI EB Tarry

Arctic Terns are the most common nesting tern on the island.  Notice the all red bill and short legs.

Arctic Tern prefers to nest in grass MSI EB Tarry

Arctic Terns like to nest in the grass on top of the island.  The Canadians mark the nests with flags to help people avoid stepping on them.

Arctic Tarn nest garden MSI

These Arctic Terns decided to nest in the garden and the Canadians respected their choice.


Common Terns also nest on MSI

Common Terns also nest on the island and are increasing. On my first visit to the island I took a picture of a pair of Arctic Terns on this same rock.

Terns defend their nests and these visitors to the island are well prepared wearing hats, raincoats and carrying sticks to keep the terns from dive bombing them.

From the left is the webmaster’s daughter Anne Tarry, her husband Tom Young, and Anne’s brother Roland Tarry.

Voiding angry tern on MSI

 Breeding Colonies   |  Machias Seal Island  | Cape St. Mary  | Bonaventure Island Gaspé| Bird Island   | Witless Bay Top of Page History and status of the island.
Trips to Machias Seal Island from Cutler Maine Accomodations See Down East - Machias