Cockle Island Seabird Centre

About the island

Cockle Island is a small island that encloses Groomsport harbour on the north coast of Co Down. It is part of the Ballymacormick Point ASSI and Outer Ards SPA.

Despite its small size and close proximity to the active village of Groomsport, the island has always been an important site for breeding seabirds. It is particularly important for breeding terns. Up to 275 pairs of Arctic Tern breed there, although between 150 – 200 pairs is more normal. A smaller number, 40 – 70 pairs, of Common Tern use the island, and for the past ten years a colony of up to 500 pairs of Sandwich Tern breed on the island. These three species of tern are all amber listed on the list of species of Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 2008 – 2013.

In addition to the terns there is a good population of breeding gulls – over 400 pairs of Black-headed Gull (red listed) and just a few Common Gulls (amber listed).

Seabird Centre

Two cameras have been set up on Cockle Island – on a tripod about 1m tall – where they can focus upon the nesting terns and gulls. They are linked via wifi to two flat screen TVs in a viewing room in Cockle Row Cottages, which form the Cockle Island Seabird Centre, just over 300m away. A third camera views the island from the mainland.

The Centre is open to the public during the breeding season (April – July). 

The environment is hostile for cameras and electronic equipment – wet and windy weather, salt spray and waves splashing on very high tides.

Seabirds nesting on Cockle Island

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