Farne Islands seabird breeding report 2014


It's been a bumper year on the Farne Islands as mild summer weather combined with good food availability has led to an excellent breeding season. The majority of seabirds showed welcome population increases, with some species bouncing back from recent poor seasons. Some of the most noticeable highlights include:

  • Shag up 37% to 795 pairs (from 582)
  • Kittiwake up 21% to 4,175 pairs (from 3,442)
  • Eider up 16% to 639 pairs (from 552)
  • Sandwich Tern up 16% to 959 pairs (from 824)
  • Arctic Tern up 15% to 2,212 pairs (from 1,921)
  • Guillemot up 4% to Farnes record of 51,883 individuals (increase of 1,835)

It was a welcome boost for the Shag population following heavy mortality during the winter of 2012–13 which halved the Farnes breeding population the following year. There was also welcome news for Kittiwakes as the population increased by 21% and good numbers of young fledged; a positive step forward following recent poor breeding seasons.

The Farne Islands' Shag population was up by 37% on 2013 (Photo: Heiko Peters)

As has been the case in recent years it was also another good year for our breeding auks, with Guillemots at record levels, Puffins producing huge numbers of fledglings and the Razorbill population maintaining itself. Other birds to show increases included both the Arctic and Sandwich Terns, while Eiders (also known as 'Cuddy Ducks') made a welcome increase. Other highlights included the Farnes' first-ever confirmed breeding of Shoveler, while Northumberland's only breeding pair of Red-breasted Mergansers nested again.

Puffins produced 'huge numbers' of fledglings in 2014 (Photo: Harry Read)

In general it was an excellent breeding season, with bumper population numbers, good food supply, settled weather and excellent numbers of young fledging the islands. Encouragingly this success story was mirrored along many other east-coast seabird colonies, halting the well documented declines in recent years. The year of 2014 will certainly be remembered as a good season for our nesting seabirds.

Farne Islands 2014 breeding numbers

Species2014 pairsChange to 2013 (pairs)% change
Shelduck1down 1
Mallard21up 6
Eider639up 87+16%
Red-breasted Merganser1level
Cormorant93up 6+7%
Shag795up 213+37%
Oystercatcher39down 2
Ringed Plover6level
Black-headed Gull610up 45+8%
Lesser Black-backed Gull799up 34+4%
Herring Gull937up 63+7%
Great Black-backed Gull17up 2
Kittiwake4,175up 733+21%
Sandwich Tern959up 135+16%
Common Tern88down 6
Arctic Tern2,198up 277+14%
Guillemot51,883 indup 1,835+4%
Razorbill501down 4
Written by: David Steel and the Farnes team