RSPB Seabird insurance policy pays dividends: Lundy wildlife thriving since rats removed


A project to remove rats from Lundy has seen numbers of the burrow-nesting seabird it set out to save more than triple. In 2001, there were only around 150 pairs of Manx Shearwaters. But, a survey carried out by the RSPB this year recorded 560—and conservationists believe the number may actually be far higher.

Manx Shearwater
Manx Shearwater, At sea, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Richard Crossen)

The birds are counted by playing a tape of their call at the mouth of burrows during the day and a note is made if there is a call in return. But experts believe the response rate is only around 50%, so there are likely to be many more Manx Shearwaters than the survey recorded. The Manx Shearwater has its world headquarters in the UK, which supports more than two thirds of the world population.

RSPB spokeswoman, Sophie Atherton said: "The discovery about the response rate means there are probably more than a thousand pairs of Manx Shearwater on Lundy, which is the beginnings of a healthy colony. Bird numbers have increased much faster than was expected, so this is doubly good news."

Manx Shearwater
Manx Shearwater, Smalls Lighthouse, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Neil Triggs)

The Seabird Recovery Project, a partnership between Natural England, the RSPB, the Landmark Trust and the National Trust, began in 2001 and aimed to increase Manx Shearwater numbers on the island to provide an insurance policy for the species as a whole. More than half of the world's population of the birds breeds on the Pembrokeshire islands of Skomer and Skokholm and were there to be a disaster such as an oil spill there, the number of birds lost could have a major impact on the species.

David Appleton of Natural England said: "The higher numbers of Manx shearwaters now on Lundy may partly be down to immigration from other islands, as the birds do not start breeding until they are six years old. Without the removal of the rats though, Lundy would not be a safe place for these birds to come to and the species may have become extinct on the island."

As well as an increase in their numbers, the Manx Shearwaters have also expanded their range on the island. They were once concentrated on the western slopes, but occupied burrows have now been discovered at a number of other locations. Manx Shearwaters aren't the only birds doing well on Lundy. This year's survey also showed the highest numbers of Guillemots and Razorbills since 1981. Puffin numbers are also on the rise. At the previous count (in 2004) there were just five birds but this year's survey found 14.

Razorbill, Auchmithie, Angus & Dundee (Photo: Mark Caunt)

Sophie Atherton added: "It's been a good year for the island's birds; in particular, the Manx Shearwater figures are a resounding validation of the work of the Seabird Recovery Project. We wouldn't have anything to celebrate if the rats were still there."

Related pages

Devon Devon
Manx Shearwater Manx Shearwater

Related articles

RSPB Bittern baby boom RSPB Bittern baby boom
Bittern has experienced its most successful year yet for breeding, according to an annual national survey carried out by RSPB staff and volunteers. read on read on
RSPB Last chance to secure protection for Britain's seabirds RSPB Last chance to secure protection for Britain's seabirds
The RSPB has warned that better protection at sea is critical if the decline of Britain's rarest seabirds is to be halted. read on read on
RSPB Oxford to host England's first 'Swift City' RSPB Oxford to host England's first 'Swift City'
The RSPB has been granted £83,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to build a new 'Swift City' in Oxford. read on read on
RSPB Common Crane breeding success at Lakenheath Fen RSPB Common Crane breeding success at Lakenheath Fen
For the second year running, Common Cranes have successfully raised chicks on a Suffolk RSPB reserve. read on read on
RSPB Urban reserve gets major boost RSPB Urban reserve gets major boost
Waste management company Veolia has confirmed substantial funding for a project at the RSPB's flagship Rainham Marshes reserve, on the edge of London. read on read on

The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (0)

Latest edition Latest edition
Search articles Search articles
All articles All articles
Popular articles Popular articles
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Terms of Sale | Cookie Policy | About us | Advertise | Contact us
BirdGuides, Warners Group Publications PLC, The Chocolate Factory, 5 Clarendon Road, London N22 6XJ
© 2016 BirdGuides and Warners Group Publications plc. All Rights Reserved. Company Registered in England no. 2572212 | VAT registration No. GB 638 3492 15
Sales: or tel. 0800 919391 · International Sales: +44 (0)1778 391180 · Office: or tel. 020 8826 0934

Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites