Lundy breeding birds 2008 to 2019

This page summarises the recent status of Lundy’s breeding species – both landbirds and seabirds – including all those known to have bred successfully, as well as those that are thought to have bred, since The Birds of Lundy was published in 2007. A total of 42 species are known to have bred during the period 2008–2019, inclusive. Two additional species that have bred previously on the island (Kestrel and Collared Dove) occurred in suitable habitat during the breeding season but are not known to have nested since 2007. One species (Song Thrus) has ceased breeding.

Teal

Breeding confirmed for the first time in 2015 when a female and four ducklings were seen on Pondsbury in June & July. Breeding was confirmed annually during the period 2016 to 2018, with at least two broods seen in each of these years.  It is thought likely that breeding was attempted in 2019 but no young were seen.

Mallard

Breeding confirmed in every year.

Fulmar

Breeding confirmed in every year. The 2008 census found 170 apparently occupied nests (a.o.n.); the 2013 census recorded an increase to 209 a.o.n., whilst the 2017 total showed a further increase to 227 a.o.n. – the highest ever recorded for the island.

Manx Shearwater

Breeding confirmed in every year. Burrow surveys in 2017 & 2018 resulted in a new population estimate of 5,504 pairs, a 55% increase on the 2013 estimate, showing the continued rapid growth of the colony since rat eradication.

Storm Petrel

Breeding was confirmed for the first time in 2014 when a chick was found on the West Side on 5 October. An adult was heard 'singing' in the same area on the night of 15/16 July 2015. There was circumstantial evidence of breeding in 2016 and confirmed breeding occurred near North Light in 2017 and 2018. Birds were also seen at night at Brazen Ward during summer 2018. Several birds trapped at night near North Light in late Aug 2019 had very full crops, suggesting they were feeding young.

Shag

Breeding confirmed in every year. The 2008 census found 63 apparently occupied nests (a.o.n.); the 2013 census recorded an increase to 112 a.o.n., whereas the 2017 census indicated a decline to just 55 a.o.n.

Kestrel

Ones and twos present during the spring and summer months, though not necessarily continuously and whilst there has been no confirmation of breeding since 2005, there was circumstantial evidence of breeding in 2016 and a displaying pair was present in May 2019.

Peregrine

Breeding confirmed in every year.

Water Rail

Breeding confirmed in every year from 2007 to 2013 and again in 2015, but not in 2014 (though birds were recorded in all months except June). There was no evidence of breeding in 2016, and though birds held territory in both 2017 & 2018, no young were seen. Calling chicks were heard (but not seen) at Quarters Pond in 2019 – the first confirmation of breeding since 2015.

Oystercatcher

Breeding confirmed in every year. Both the 2008 and 2013 breeding seabird censuses recorded 18 territories. Oystercatchers were not covered by the 2017 breeding seabird survey.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Breeding confirmed in every year. The 2008 census found 263 apparently occupied territories (a.o.t.); the 2013 census recorded a decrease to 242 a.o.t., and a further decline to 133 apparently occupied nests was recorded by the 2018 large gull census.

Herring Gull

Breeding confirmed in every year. The 2008 census found 534 apparently occupied territories (a.o.t.); the 2013 census recorded a decrease to 428 a.o.t., and a further decline to 241 apparently occupied nests was recorded by the 2018 large gull census.

Great Back-backed Gull

Breeding confirmed in every year. The 2008 census found 57 pairs; the 2013 census recorded a small decrease to 50 pairs, but the 2018 large gull census figure of 51 apparently occupied nests suggests a generally stable population.

Kittiwake

Breeding confirmed in every year. The 2008 census found 151 apparently occupied nests (a.o.n.); the 2013 census recorded a decrease to 127 a.o.n., though the 2017 census bucked the long-term trend, with an increase to 238 a.o.n. – the highest figure since 1996.

Guillemot

Breeding confirmed in every year. The 2013 census recorded a total of 4,114 individual birds at breeding sites, representing a 25% increase (similar to that for Guillemots) on the total of 3,302 birds counted during the 2008 census. The 2017 census recorded a total of 6,198 birds, representing a 51% increase over the number recorded in 2013 and by far the highest total since the regular seabird census commenced in 1981.

Razorbill

Breeding confirmed in every year. The 2013 census recorded a total of 1,324 individual birds at breeding sites, representing a 27% increase (similar to that for Guillemots) on the total of 1,045 birds counted during the 2008 census. The 2017 census recorded a total of 1,735 birds, representing a 31% increase over the number recorded in 2013 and the highest total since the regular seabird census commenced in 1981.

Puffin

Breeding confirmed in every year. The population has grown significantly since the eradication of rats; successful breeding has been recorded at Jenny’s Cove and St Philip’s Stone, and birds have been seen prospecting in several other areas. The RSPB-led breeding census, spread over several days in spring 2017, produced a total of 375 birds, representing a 369% increase over the total recorded using the same methodology in 2013. A record one-day count (for recent years) of 468 adult birds was made on 7 Jul 2019, though a high proportion of these were likely to have been non-breeders, which tend to appear in numbers towards the end of each breeding season, perhaps immatures prospecting for future years.

Woodpigeon

Present throughout the breeding season in all years and nesting attempts have probably been made by one or two pairs annually. The  years in which definite evidence of breeding was reported have been 2014 (independent juvenile seen on 1 June; adult nest-building in upper Millcombe on 9 June), 2015 (fledged juvenile in Millcombe on 8 July), 2017 (a pair mating in Millcombe in Apr and a recently fledged juv there on 5 Jul), 2018 (fledgling in Millcombe in Jun and a juv in Aug), and 2019 (fledglings in Millcombe in Jun & Sep).

Collared Dove

Migrants occurred every spring, especially in May, and the classic territorial call was reported from the Village, Millcombe and/or elsewhere along the East Side in 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016 & 2019 (at least) but there was no evidence of breeding in these or other years.

Cuckoo

Calling males heard every spring, and breeding confirmed in 2009, 2012 & 2018, when juveniles were seen in the company of their host parents – Meadow Pipits in all cases. A juvenile seen in early August 2008 may have been island-reared, but could equally have been a migrant from elsewhere. Fully-grown juveniles seen in August 2013, 2015 & 2019 were thought to have been passage migrants.

Skylark

Breeding confirmed in every year. No recent census.

Swallow

Breeding confirmed in every year, with no more than a handful of pairs, all of which have been in buildings in and around the Village and Millcombe.

Meadow Pipit

Breeding confirmed in every year. No recent census.

Rock Pipit

Breeding confirmed in every year. No recent census.

Pied Wagtail

Breeding confirmed in every year. No more than a handful of pairs; most birds using either natural rock crevices or holes in dry-stone walls and buildings.

Wren

Breeding confirmed in every year. No recent census.

Dunnock

Breeding confirmed in every year. The population fell to a low level, with no more than two to five territorial males for a time in the early to mid-2010s, but appears to have turned a corner in the last few years, with at least nine territories confirmed in 2019.

Robin

Breeding confirmed in every year. Perhaps three to six pairs nesting annually in Millcombe and along the East Side.

Stonechat

Following a succession of mild winters, a small breeding population had become established when The Birds of Lundy was published in 2007. Breeding by at least one pair was also confirmed in 2008 and probably occurred in 2009 (well-grown young seen on the Terrace in early August). Following a run of colder winters from 2009 to 2012, including several prolonged periods of severe weather, the breeding population died out and there was no evidence of breeding for 2010–2014 inclusive. A pair bred successfully in the gorsey heathland south of Pondsbury in 2015. There was no evidence of breeding in either 2016 or 2017, but breeding was confirmed by a pair north of St Helen's Copse in 2018 and at least four pairs bred in 2019.

Wheatear

Breeding confirmed in every year. A colour-ringing study coordinated by Tony Taylor and detailed in the 2013 LFS Annual Report resulted in a record-breaking population estimate of 115 pairs in 2014. As a species that typically breeds at or close to ground level, Wheatears are likely to have benefited significantly from the eradication of rats, a conclusion reinforced by further all-island estimates made in subsequent years: 2015 – 100 pairs; 2016 – 110 pairs; 2017 – 121 pairs, the latter another record high; 2018 – 114 pairs; and 2019 – 118 pairs.

Blackbird

Breeding confirmed in every year. No recent census.

Song Thrush

Breeding confirmed in 2008 (one pair) and 2009 (two pairs and evidence of both spring and summer broods). However, following a run of cold winters the small breeding population died out. Song was heard in 2010, but there was no evidence of successful breeding. In 2011, for the first time since the mid-1980s, there were no singing males; a situation that has persisted up to and including 2020. It will be interesting to see if the island is recolonised at some point in the future. Changes in vegetation structure on the island (including the removal of invasive rhododendron thickets and the effects of goat browsing on the shrub layer in Millcombe) may also have been factors.

Sedge Warbler

Territory-holding males have been present well into June in several years but the only confirmation of breeding since publication of The Birds of Lundy was in 2010 when a pair were feeding fledged young in St John’s Valley.

Blackcap

A juvenile was seen in Millcombe on 27 June 2009, but there had been no earlier reports of breeding behaviour, so it may have been an early-dispersing mainland-reared bird. Strong circumstantial evidence indicates that was probably at least attempted in Millcombe in most years from 2011 to 2015, inclusive, but definitive proof remained elusive until Jun/Jul 2016, when breeding on the island was confirmed for the first time. Breeding was proven again in 2018 & 2019 (two fledglings in Millcombe), following a 'blank' year in 2017.

Whitethroat

Territory-holding males have been present well into June in every year and a pair was nest-building in Millcombe in June 2012, but the first proof of breeding since publication of The Birds of Lundy (in fact the first proof of breeding since 1978!) did not come until 2019, when a pair successfully reared two brood in upper Millcombe.

Chiffchaff

Though territory-holding males were present into June in all years, the only years in which breeding has been confirmed since publication of The Birds of Lundy were 2010, 2018 and 2019 (all in Millcombe). In addition, adults were carrying nesting material in lower Millcombe in late May 2016.

Willow Warbler

Breeding confirmed in 2012 (one pair watched feeding young below Hanmers Copse; another pair nest-building in Millcombe). Singing males have held territory well into June in several other years, but there is no additional evidence of any breeding attempt.

Spotted Flycatcher

From 2007 to 2016, inclusive, there was no evidence of breeding, with the handful of birds recorded well into June in most years all considered to be late passage migrants. However, a pair bred at Quarter Wall Copse in 2017 – the first confirmed breeding record for the island since 1997.

Carrion Crow

Breeding confirmed in every year.

Raven

Breeding confirmed in every year.

Starling

Breeding confirmed in every year. Indications are that the breeding opoulation has increased recently, perhaps as a consequence of rat eradication, with at least 40 pairs nesting successfully in 2018 – the highest total ever recorded for the island. This was eclipsed in 2019 by a total of 56 active nests located in the vicinity of the Village, Church & Old Light.

House Sparrow

Breeding confirmed in every year; 218 broods were recorded by researchers during the 2017 breeding season. 175 broods were recorded in 2018 and 103 broods in 2019. The smaller number of broods in 2019 was attributed to a late start to the season, most likely the result of a prolonged run of cold nights in May.

Chaffinch

Breeding confirmed in every year, although the population is now extremely small, not exceeding three pairs. There was no proof of breeding at all in 2018 and just a single pair bred in Millcombe in 2019, but three pairs were present in the valley in 2020.

Goldfinch

Present during the breeding season in all years and at least one or two pairs likely to have bred annually. Juveniles were seen in July or August in 2009–2013, inclusive, though it was unknown whether these were definitely Lundy-reared birds. Breeding on the island has been confirmed in every subsequent year, i.e. 2014 to 2019, inclusive, with at least six pairs thought to have bred in Millcombe in 2019 – one of the most notable changes of status for any of Lundy's breeding passerines.

Linnet

Breeding confirmed in every year. No recent census.

Water Rail by Mike Langman from The Birds of Lundy

 

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