Lundy seabird populations soar

Rat cull on the Devon island leads to recovery of bird populations.

It is exciting to see this level of recovery in Manx shearwaters, one of our most important seabirds.

Seabird populations on a rocky island off Devon have soared following the eradication of rats that lived there, conservationists have revealed.

There has been a dramatic boost in the numbers of Manx shearwater, puffins and guillemots 15 years after a project to remove rats from Lundy, in the Bristol Channel, ended.

The RSPB said the population of seabirds on Lundy has tripled to 21,000 birds, with the Manx shearwater population growing from 297 pairs to 5,504 and puffins increasing from just 13 birds to 375.


The project, which was launched in 2002 by Natural England, the Landmark Trust, the National Trust and RSPB, aimed to eradicate the rats because they posed the biggest threat to the survival of the birds.

After four years, Lundy was declared rat free and the seabird populations have been steadily rising.

Rosie Hails, director of science and nature at the National Trust, said: "We were really concerned as previous records showed that puffin numbers on Lundy had plummeted from over 3,500 pairs in 1939 to fewer than 10 pairs in 2000.

"And although around 75% of the global population of Manx shearwaters breed on UK islands there were only 297 pairs on Lundy in 2001, way short of its potential considering its size and available habitat."


Helen Booker, senior conservation officer for RSPB in South West of England, said: "This study clearly shows how quickly and positively seabirds respond to the removal of non-native predators.

"Of course, we had anticipated major population increases when the project was launched, but the scale of this recovery has far exceeded our expectations."

Lundy warden Dean Jones added: "It is exciting to see this level of recovery in Manx shearwaters, one of our most important seabirds.

"In spring the island comes alive at night with the sound of these amazing birds. The increases in puffins, guillemots and razorbills is also very encouraging for the future of seabirds on Lundy and we are maintaining our vigilance to ensure rats cannot return to the island."

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Rod Minchin is a reporter for the Press Association.

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