Northern Ireland’s seabirds get an annual health check.

18 Mar 2020 | No. 2020-07

2019 produced a mixed bag for Northern Ireland’s seabirds but confirmed the importance of the country’s coastline for its 22 breeding seabird species.

The Northern Ireland Seabird Report 2019, just published, highlights how important some of our seabird colonies are. Black-legged Kittiwake populations are in long-term decline in the UK as a whole but in Northern Ireland the decline is at a much slower rate, with some colonies actually showing an increase. All around the coast of Northern Ireland, Kittiwakes appear to have had a good year in 2019, with increases at all sites. The Gobbins and Muck Island saw a 68% and 65% increase on 2018 respectively. The UK as a whole has lost over half its breeding Kittiwakes since the 1960s.
Razorbills and Guillemots also did well in 2019, the former being recorded in its highest numbers since records began at Muck Island and the latter having its best year since 2016.
It is not all good news, however. Fulmar numbers continue to decline, along with Black Guillemot, at Northern Ireland’s best known seabird haven, Rathlin Island.
Katherine Booth-Jones, Scientific Officer, BTO Northern Ireland, said, “The Northern Ireland Seabird Network is a special collaboration between volunteer seabird surveyors, NIEA, RSPB and the National Trust, without whom we could not follow the fates of our seabirds in these changing times. While we have seen winners and losers in 2019, seabird counts at colonies can vary year-to-year depending on weather conditions and timings, which makes the annual recording of seabird numbers by our volunteers particularly valuable to capture long-term changes in Northern Ireland.”
The Northern Ireland Seabird Report 2019 carries the latest updates for all of the 22 seabirds that breed in Northern Ireland. To read the full report, please click here.
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Notes to editors
The Northern Ireland Seabird Report 2019 is a partnership between Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Ards and North Down Borough Council, the National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the volunteers of the Northern Ireland Seabird Network.
The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Belfast (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.

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