Seabird Update: Kittiwakes and Fulmars

The Isle of May Kittiwakes have had an excellent breeding season and the number of breeding pairs has also increased on last year from 1712 (2013) to 2464 (2014); an increase of 44%. This is down by just one pair from the 2012 count of 2465. Not only are their numbers up but they have also had a great season, with many birds having broods of two and three and raising them to fledging age. It is a relief to see that birds have bred successfully this year after last years season.

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A brood of two almost ready to fledge.

Many birds spent the summer loafing and didn’t lay eggs at all last season, with many birds simply not in good enough condition to breed. If they don’t feel in good enough shape to breed, a year off breeding can be a useful tactic, as incubating eggs and feeding chicks requires an enormous amount of energy. Seabirds are hardy, long lived birds so missing one or two years breeding doesn’t make much of a difference and the energy saved during the course of the season can be vital to success in future years.

Our Fulmars on the May have been in decline since 2010 when there were 381 pairs, the second highest ever recorded (the highest being 382 in 1997), to a worrying 218 pairs in 2013. But this year we have seen a 49% increase and pairs have shot up to 325 dotted around the island. Fulmars are the longest lived bird on the island with some fulmars living into their sixties. They are a relative of the Albatross and spend long periods roaming the open ocean in search of food.

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It would appear our Fulmars have also had a good season, with many young now starting to take to the wing across the island. If it isn’t very windy, they can often struggle to take off and many have found their way around the buildings , unable to lift their weight off the ground. So we come to their rescue and giving them a helping hand into the sea (whilst trying to avoid getting vomited on!). All in a days work!

We’ll bring more updates on how some of our other seabirds have fared soon, with early indications suggesting a good season all round.

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