The population of nesting seabirds on Lundy Island in the UK is at a nine-decade high.
More 40,000 rare seabirds birds now call Lundy home, the highest number since 1939, showing the impact that direct conservation can have in protecting and restoring species. Lundy is an island in the Bristol Channel, Devon, and is one of England’s largest seabird colonies
Surveys have shown that Lundy now supports 95% of England's breeding Manx shearwaters, with 25,000 individuals recorded, as well as 1,335 puffins and over 150 pairs of breeding storm petrels, a species that first arrived on the island in 2014 following conservation efforts.
The figures are in stark contrast to the year 2000, when a survey recorded a seabird population of 7,351. Urgent action was needed to make the habitat safer for rare breeding seabirds such as puffins, which were near extinction on the island, and Manx shearwaters, the number of which had dropped to just 297 pairs in 2001.
In 2002, a partnership of the RSPB, the National Trust, the Landmark Trust and Natural England was formed to restore seabird populations. Evidence revealed their biggest threat was predation of eggs and chicks by rats, imported unwittingly on ships visiting the island or from shipwrecks. Following careful conservation work, Lundy was declared rat-free in 2006.
"If we can restore over 30,000 birds to one small island in the Bristol Channel, just imagine how much could be achieved if everyone came together to restore nature right across the UK."
Paul St Pierre, RSPB conservation officer, said, “Partnership projects like this show just how much potential there is to restore species and landscapes on an incredible scale.
"If we can restore over 30,000 birds to one small island in the Bristol Channel, just imagine how much could be achieved if everyone came together to restore nature right across the UK. Projects like this are achieved through decades of conservation science, expertise, funding and countless volunteer hours – everyone can play a part.
“While Lundy is protected for many of its wonderful species, the surrounding waters still lack any protection for seabirds. These results are a clear sign that Lundy must be designated as a Special Protection Area for our vulnerable seabirds.”
Derek Green, Lundy general manager, said: "We’re delighted by the dramatic increase of seabirds on Lundy in recent years. This success is a real testament to collaborative efforts for conservation and we extend our thanks to our partners involved.
“Coming just months after the island’s re-admission to the Bird Observatories Network, these new figures recognise Lundy’s ever-growing importance nationally and for ornithological research. Conservation is at the heart of everything we do on the island and we look forward to continuing to nurture this very special place for future generations to enjoy."
Migratory Manx shearwaters spend much of their time at sea and return to the UK shores to breed in the spring. Earlier this year, they featured in the Oceans episode of the Wild Isles BBC television series, co-produced by the RSPB, WWF and The Open University.