Northern Ireland’s seabirds get an annual health check - British Trust for Ornithology

2020 produced a mixed bag for Northern Ireland’s seabirds but confirmed the importance of the country’s coastline for its 20 breeding seabird species.

group of black and white guillemots standing on a rock with the sea behind
Guillemot (photo by Mike Toms)

Volunteer-led monitoring of seabirds was severely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, but surveys carried out by the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds revealed that tern colonies around Northern Ireland had a catastrophic year, with Sandwich and Common Terns experiencing some of their lowest numbers since records began.

However, despite declines in terns, many seabirds had a good breeding season. 2020 was a record year for Guillemots on Muck Island, with Ulster Wildlife recording 3,107 individuals present at the colony last summer, the highest number counted since the first record in 1987.

Despite Black-legged Kittiwake populations experiencing a long-term decline in the UK as a whole, in Northern Ireland the decline is at a much slower rate, with some colonies actually showing an increase. In particular, Kittiwakes are going from strength to strength in south Co. Down, with the colony there increasing in each year since 2015 (from 483 pairs to 717 pairs). Also in Co. Down, lucky volunteers were able to follow the breeding success of a colony of 22 pairs of Black Guillemots as they raised 11 young birds opposite their house during the lockdown. These good news stories for Northern Irish seabirds are only possible to report due to the dedicated efforts of our Seabird Network volunteers year after year.

The Northern Ireland Seabird Report 2020 carries the latest updates for all of the 20 seabirds that breed in Northern Ireland. To read the full report

Posted on: 19 March 2021

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