Survey of breeding birds on North Bull Island, Dublin Bay

Abstract: 6th Irish Ornithological Research Conference 2013, page 9.


Irish Birds 9: 647-648.

Tom Cooney

The first complete survey of all breeding birds in Ireland’s oldest bird sanctuary, North Bull Island, was carried out between mid-March and mid-July 2012 and 2013 and may be repeated in 2014. The survey area covered 240 hectares including two golf courses. The objectives were to (1) establish the range of breeding species, (2) establish baseline population data for each species and (3) produce breeding distribution maps. Territory-mapping was used for the majority of species however Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis and Skylark Alauda arvensis populations were based on data extrapolated from sample hectares. Preliminary analyses of the results indicate that up to 27 species nest regularly, of which 11 are Amber List species. In addition, the data also confirms that the island holds a very significant population of breeding passerines. Compared with an account of the breeding birds published in the early 1950s it is clear that substantial changes have occurred and are likely to be linked to (1) the provision of new habitats in the golf courses, (2) the general maturation of existing natural habitats and (3) the increased size of the island. Species that were once scarce or unknown on the island are now common residents e.g. Magpie Pica pica and Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus. On the negative side excessive levels of disturbance from amenity activities and the lack of protection have led to the abandonment of the island by once regular breeding species such as Little Tern Sternula albifrons (since 1990s) and Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (since 2010). On the basis of results from this survey a number of temperature sensitive species have been selected for annual monitoring with specific attention being paid to their responses to short and long term climate change.

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