THE violent Atlantic
storms of last winter took their toll on Ireland's
seabirds with almost half of some species (41 per
cent) wiped out here, new figures show.
The country's western seaboard experienced the worst
weather in living memory between last October and
March, with storms often coming at a relentless rate
of two per week.
Birdwatch Ireland says the severity of the weather
coupled with little recovery time in between the
storms, proved too much for some seabird species to
The organisation said it received a record number of
reports of ringed birds washing up dead in the first
quarter of this year. These reports jumped almost
one hundred-fold - from a typical winter average of
one or two reports to 100.
"Nothing much was detected until early in the New
Year, when reports of dead or emaciated birds on
beaches in Ireland and elsewhere began to trickle
in," said Birdwatch Ireland senior conservation
officer, Dr Stephen Newton.
"The trickle then became a flood by February and
March and obviously people began sending in ringing
recoveries to the national schemes in France, the UK
"In a typical winter, we may receive one or two
(ringing) recoveries but the winter of 2013/2014
produced nearly 100," he added.
He said the common guillemot took the biggest hit
here with 42 reported dead. This was followed by the
razorbill (33 mortalities), Atlantic puffin (6
mortalities) and black guillemot (6 mortalities).
The figures do not account for the hundreds more
that did not wash up and whose deaths could not be
Birdwatch Ireland has now completed summer censuses
at some of the country's most important seabird
breeding sites which also bear out the statistics in
relation to last winter's severe mortality rate.
"For example, in 2011 and 2012, we had 90 and 92
pairs of black guillemots on Rockabill. This summer,
we only have 54 pairs - a 41 per cent decline - and
many prime nest holes are vacant," said Mr Newton.
"On Wicklow Head, the numbers of breeding common
guillemots and razorbills declined by 41 per cent
and 29 per cent respectively since the last count in