Dublin island sees tenfold increase in seabird population after conservation effort

A small island off the coast of Dublin has seen a huge increase in its seabird population after it was transformed into a refuge for threatened species.

A small Dublin island has seen a tenfold increase in its seabird population after a major conservation effort.

Rockabill Island, off the coast of Dublin, was covered with hundreds of nesting boxes in an attempt to save one of the most endangered seabirds in Europe.

A victory for conservationists, the island has already seen a huge increase in the bird population on the island.

A critically endangered species ‒ protecting a declining population

Dublin island sees huge increase in seabird population.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Roseate terns are one of the most endangered species of seabirds in Europe. A strictly coastal bird, they are often seen around the coastline of the UK and Ireland.

Similar in size to a common tern, the roseate tern is distinctive for its white feathers. They have long-tail streamers, a black cap, a black beak, and a reddish base.

According to Independent.ie, Rockabill Island, which is around the size of a football pitch, is home to around 85 per cent of the European population of roseate terns.

So, conservation efforts on the island are an important step in protecting this declining species.

Dublin island sees tenfold increase in seabird population ‒ a victory for conservationists

Rockabill Island is located off the coast of Dublin.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

The conservation project at Rockabill Island started 33 years ago, back in 1989. At this time, experts from BirdWatch Ireland realised the potential of Rockabill Island as a nesting ground for endangered seabirds.

They wedged simple timber nest boxes into the ground on barren spots around the island. Therefore, mimicking crevices naturally created by rocks.

These timber boxes would provide the birds with protection for their eggs and fledglings from the harsh weather conditions.

Over the past 33 years of the project, scientists from Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin have been monitoring the activity on the island.

Now, they have revealed that the Dublin island has seen a tenfold increase in its seabird population thanks to the ongoing conservation efforts.

An incredible growth in the island’s population ‒ hope for the future

The Dublin island has seen a huge increase in its seabird population.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

When the project began in 1989, scientists recorded just 180 breeding pairs of roseate terns on the island. Now, in 2022, the latest figures show there are around 1,800.

So far, the project has been a huge success for conservation efforts. The offspring of the seabirds from the Dublin island are now helping to grow similar colonies in Wexford and England.

Every year, local schoolchildren help to make the boxes for the seabirds to nest in. Therefore, teaching the next generation the importance of helping wildlife to thrive.

Brian Burke is the scientific officer with BirdWatch Ireland. Speaking on the project, he said, “Rockabill is an amazing place, we’re extremely lucky to have such an internationally important seabird colony on the doorstep of our capital city”.

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