Roseate Tern numbers up – great news for one of Ireland’s rarest birds

Published by Ian Carey on

July 14th 2016
Image: Taken by Brian Burke under NPWS licence

Roseate Terns nests have increased by around 150 compared to last year on Rockabill island in North Dublin, researchers have found.

The small island, off the Skerries coast, is home to one of Ireland’s rarest sea birds and it is the most significant colony of these birds in Europe.

Wardens, working on the island for BirdWatch Ireland, have recorded 1,556 Roseate Tern nests in the middle of the breeding season 2016 this is an increase of around 150 on last year.

The wardens live on the island during the breeding season as part of an NPWS-funded project. This further cements Rockabill’s status as the largest Roseate Tern colony in Europe and bodes very well for our EU LIFE-funded Roseate Tern conservation project, which will run for the next five years.

One of the wardens Brian Burke wrote on his blog:

“So we’re roundabout the middle of the Tern breeding season at the moment – most either have chicks or have eggs that will very soon be chicks! Last week we carried out a full nest census of the entire island to find out how many pairs of breeding birds we have here on Rockabill. The census took place over two days, checking every nest box, patch of vegetation, and any cracks and crevices that might have Roseate Tern nests, and everywhere in between for Common and Arctic Tern nests!  Thankfuly after a few long and tiring days the news was very positive for our Roseate Terns.”

“We counted 1,556 Roseate Tern nests on Rockabill – that’s an increase of over 150 nests from last year. Such a big increase further cements Rockabill’s status as the largest Roseate Tern colony in Europe and is down to a lot of hard work from all of the wardens and Birdwatch Ireland staff who have worked here over the years.”

“Around 700 of those 1556 nests are in nestboxes, again proving their value and importance to the species continued growth. We got around 100 new nestboxes this year thanks to funding from the EU LIFE project, and will hopefully continue to add more and more in the coming years.

“This increase also bodes well for the EU LIFE-funded project that will run for the next five years. We’ll be sharing our knowledge with wardens from Tern colonies elsewhere in the hope of re-establishing breeding Roseate Terns around Ireland and the UK and further safeguard the future of this elegant seabird! At the moment there are only three colonies in Ireland and the UK. So hopefully some of our Rockabill birds, particularly those from recent years, will stumble upon some suitable sites on their spring migration and decide to nest there in the very near future.”

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Ian Carey

Ian is the editor of the Green News. He works as Communications Manger with the Irish Environmental Network.