Arctic Tern chicks take flight from Dalkey Island

Published by Niall Sargent on

August 1st, 2019

Arctic Terns have successfully raised chicks on the main island of Dalkey for the first time on record.

According to BirdWatch Ireland (BWI), six chicks from the vulnerable colony have taken to the wing so far on the small island three kilometres south of Dún Laoghaire Harbour.

This is a “much-needed triumph”, the conservation charity said, as chicks have never survived to take flight on Dalkey Island to date.

Arctic Tern on Dalkey Island Photo: Nick Blake
Arctic Tern on Dalkey Island Photo: Nick Blake

The Arctic Tern, nicknamed ‘sea-swallow’ after its long tail streamers and buoyant flight, is the world’s greatest long-distance traveller.

They can clock up to three million kilometres as they alternate between summer breeding in the Northern Hemisphere and wintering off Antarctica in the Southern Ocean.

The species is vulnerable and is amber-listed on the Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland list, largely owing to limited suitable breeding habitat.

This is most likely due to the effect of predators and unseasonable weather regularly flooding the other two islands in the archipelago, the charity said.

Efforts to remove the large rat population on Dalkey Island as well as “tenacious protection of the tern parents” have allowed the chicks to survive and take flight, BWI said.

In addition, canes were erected across a portion of the nearby Lamb Island to exclude gulls from the tern colony as part of the Dalkey Tern Conservation Project funded by the EU LIFE Roseate Tern Recovery Project and Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council.

BWI’s Dalkey Tern warden Tara Adcock said that the team is “thrilled” about how well the “small but resilient colony has done this year”.

“This project truly shows that if you give nature a chance, it can bounce back. It has been a real pleasure to work to protect these phenomenal birds. It’s incredible to think that in a few weeks, these chicks along with their parents will undertake the longest migration in the natural world,” she added.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London