Breeding birds report 2019

Twenty-three species of bird nested on the islands this year, all of which faced the annual trials and tribulations of challenging weather, predation and food availability for chicks.

Light winds and mild temperatures contributed to great success for key cliff nesting species. It was a record-breaking year for guillemots, with 64,042 individuals present. This is the highest ever count for the islands!

Kittiwakes were the other big winners, with a 39% increase in breeding pairs. The results are extremely welcome for this Red-Listed species, particularly as 2018 saw the lowest numbers since 1973.

Recovery for shags was slower with an increase of just 9 pairs. They were badly affected by extreme weather in early 2018, so we hope that conditions this summer allow our resident seabird to thrive.

Arctic terns suffered this season. Exceptionally heavy rainfall in June also resulted in the deaths of small chicks.This resulted in the lowest numbers since 2002. Despite such challenges, productivity was stable and equaled the previous season with 434 chicks fledging from our monitored nests. Common and Sandwich terns continued to decline; numbers were the lowest for both species in 40 years.

The redesigned puffin census was performed for the second year running, and results were remarkably stable at 43,752, with a decline of 203 breeding pairs. Despite such relative stability, the heavy rain in June flooded many burrows, and resulted in low productivity and the deaths of many chicks. 

Eiders also experienced a small decline of 1%, resulting in 472 breeding pairs across the islands. Productivity was the lowest since 2012, so stability for this amber listed species cannot be taken for granted. Razorbills declined by 3%, with 427 pairs representing the lowest number of breeding pairs since 2012. It was a successful year for ground nesting gulls, with all four species experiencing boosts in numbers. Black-headed and Lesser Black-back Gulls were the main winners, with population increases of 13% and 11% respectively.

Fulmars experienced a worrying decline, with 186 pairs logged across the islands and a drop of 25%. This is only the second time since 2005 that numbers have dipped below 200 pairs. Cormorant numbers are even more concerning. Having abandoned North Wamses in 2017, a mere 67 pairs nested this season, the lowest since 1961.