Tern success

NPWS reveals record number of Roseate Tern pairs in Wexford island colony

  • Minister of State Malcolm Noonan praises biodiversity commitment of wildlife staff and local community
  • Lady’s Island Lake is the second-largest colony in Europe for rare seabird

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is pleased to announce record numbers of pairs of Roseate Terns at the tern colony on islands in Lady’s Island Lake, County Wexford, in the 2020 breeding season.

Lady’s Island Lake is designated as a Special Protection Area for four species of Terns — Sandwich, Arctic, Common & Roseate Terns. These ground-nesting seabirds are also known as sea-swallows, due to their appearance. They migrate each spring, to nest on islands close to productive fishing areas.

All four species are listed by the European Union as “Annex I” species in need of special protection. The Roseate Tern is one of the rarest breeding European seabirds, with Lady’s Island Lake the second-largest colony in Europe (outside of the Azores Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean).

The islands in Lady’s Island Lake are wardened from April to August, by contractors working on behalf of, and with, NPWS staff. Nest boxes are provided for the terns on the ground, which help them to shelter from harsh weather and hide from aerial predators. Two wardens boat out to the islands almost every day throughout the breeding season, monitoring the terns and their nests, disturbance and predation incidents. The wardens also read rings put on chicks in previous years, to improve information on the ecology of the birds.

Conservation Ranger Tony Murray said: ‘’This year we had 273 pairs of Roseate Tern, up from 195 last year, and our highest number ever.”

The project is funded by the NPWS and has been running annually for over 30 years. “This project is heavily reliant on the goodwill, support and assistance from the local community. Without the assistance of landowners who facilitate the project, access and storage of equipment, we would never have reached the success this project has. The local community are an active support to our wardening, contacting NPWS with any useful information,” Mr Murray said.

The Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, said the record numbers of pairs recorded was another biodiversity success story. “As with the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s initiatives to boost Curlew and Partridge numbers and restore White-Tailed Eagles to our skies, this is a story of partnership between wildlife staff and the wider community,” Minister Noonan said.

“I would like to commend the NPWS staff for their incredible efforts to support the tern population and applaud the people of Wexford for their help in supporting their vital work.”

Warden Dave Daly said that, ”while we hope each pair raises at least one chick, it can be trying for the terns to find enough fish if weather conditions are harsh. This year the weather was kind at the right time and prey obviously relatively abundant, and productivity at 1.5, surpassing the previous best of 1.38, that equates at a chick-and-a-half per pair fledged.”

The NPWS extends its thanks and appreciation to landowners for facilitating access and to the local community for their involvement, interest and support over the years.

The terns are now migrating south to their wintering grounds from West Africa to Southern Africa, and we are already looking forward to their return next spring.

Further information:

National Parks and Wildlife Service: https://www.npws.ie/.

Lady’s Island Lake Special Protection Area: https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/spa/004009.

NPWS involvement in European LIFE project for Roseate Terns: http://roseatetern.org/ladys-island-lake.html.


(Source: Government press release on 18 September 2020 at https://www.chg.gov.ie/npws-reveals-record-number-of-roseate-tern-pairs-in-wexford-island-colony/)