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Breeding seabirds

Seabird 2000
Breeding seabirds of Co. Waterford: summary

Update:  A further census of Waterford seabirds has been completed in 2008, and details will be added here later.  Meantime, see 2008 maps of breeding seabird distribution.

Seabirds breeding on the coasts of Britain and Ireland have been censused during three major surveys since 1969 - Operation Seafarer (1969-70), the Seabird Colony Register (1985-88) and Seabird 2000 (1998-2002).  Results of Seabird 2000 have been recently published in Seabird populations of Britain and Ireland (by P.I. Mitchell, S.F. Newton, N. Ratcliff & T.E. Dunn; T. & A.D., Poyser, 2004).  Along with 1998-2002 counts, this also tabulates county totals from the earlier surveys, re-calculated based on the original records, and assesses population changes.
 
Counts from the County Waterford coast (between Waterford Harbour in the east and Youghal Harbour in the west) are summarized below, based on the totals presented by Mitchell et al. (2004) [plus Little Tern - see below].  Note that counts from the first survey may be less accurate than those from subsequent surveys, as count-methodologies were not as well-established at the time, and observers were fewer and often surveying unfamiliar areas - not just in Co. Waterford.  Surveys of nesting Cormorants and Kittiwakes in Co Waterford have been undertaken at more frequent intervals (annual at some colonies) since the early 1980s, but only counts from the main surveys are summarized here.  Last updated 30 Sept 2004.
 
 
Species census unit

Operation

% change

Seabird

% change

Seabird

 

 

Seafarer

 

Colony

 

2000

 

Register

Years (full survey)

1969-70

 

1985-88

 

1998-2002

 

 

 

 

Years (Waterford)

 

1969-70

 

1985-87

 

1998-2000

Fulmar

pairs

323

+201%

973

-30%

683

Cormorant

pairs

79

+446%

431

-43%

247

Shag

pairs

105

+57%

165

-84%

26

Lesser Black-backed Gull

pairs

25

-100%

0

 

0

Herring Gull

pairs

4,060

-59%

1,654

-75%

409

Great Black-backed Gull

pairs

75

+35%

101

-39%

62

Kittiwake

pairs

3,417

+13%

3,876

-34%

2,557

Little Tern

pairs

9

-100%

0

 

0

Guillemot

adults

1,104

13%

1,246

-15%

1,055

Razorbill

adults

1,700

-89%

184

-70%

56

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Guillemot

adults

nc

 

61

-44%

34

 
Census units:
Fulmar:  apparently occupied sites (equivalent to 'pairs').
Cormorant, Shag, Larus gulls, Kittiwake, terns: apparently occupied nests ('pairs').
Guillemot, Razorbill:  individual adults on suitable breeding ledges.
Black Guillemot: individual adults on land, or on sea close to shore.
 
Recommended count dates and times (Appendix I of Mitchell et al. 2004):
Fulmar: Late May-early July (ideally June), 0900-1730 BST.
Cormorant: Early May-late June.
Shag: Late May-late June.
Gulls (Larus): Late May-early June.
Kittiwake: Late May-mid June.
Terns: Mid May-late June.
Guillemot, Razorbill: 1st-21st June, 0800-1600 BST.
Black Guillemot: Late March-early May, first light to 0900 BST.
 
Comments on counts:
 
In total, 11 seabird species have been recorded nesting in Waterford in the period 1969-2004. 
 
Two species, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Little Tern, no longer nested in Waterford by the mid 1980s.  Populations of most other species (with the exception of Herring Gull and Razorbill) increased between the 1969-70 and 1985-87 surveys, with Fulmar and Cormorant showing the largest proportional increases. 
 
In contrast, all nine species breeding in the mid 1980s showed some decline in numbers by 1999-2000, most significant (in terms of numbers of pairs lost) for Herring Gull.  (Changes in Guillemot numbers were minor and probably within the range of day-to-day variation in colony-attendance.)  In general the changes are in line with decreases seen elsewhere on the south coast of Ireland (Wexford and Cork) or elsewhere in Ireland.  The factors involved are generally unclear, but may include botulism (large gulls), changes in food availability, and (locally) predation or disturbance.  The same observers carried out most of the 1985-87 and 1998-2000 surveys in Waterford, so observer-related differences can largely be be ruled out here.  See Mitchell et al. (2004) for wider discussion of "causes of change" for each species.
 
Note that Little Tern was not recorded by Operation Seafarer observers in Waterford 1969-70 or included for Waterford by Mitchell et al. (2004).  However,  9 pairs nested at Tramore in 1970 (M. O'Meara, 1984, The wildbirds of Decies, manuscript, Waterford City Library), and the species is included in the table above.

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