Kilcoole Little Tern project

Protecting Ireland's smallest nesting Tern

Since 1985, BirdWatch Ireland have been working to conserve and protect the Little Terns nesting on Kilcoole Beach, Co. Wicklow. The project is supported and funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Protecting Ireland’s smallest tern

Little Terns have nested on the shingle beach at Kilcoole for over 100 years. The Kilcoole Little Tern protection Scheme has been ongoing for the last 34 years. The nesting terns usually occupy a small strip of shingle beach at “the Breaches”, midway between Kilcoole and Newcastle railway stations.  Special measures need to be implemented to prevent disturbance and trampling on the very well camouflaged tern nests, including erecting mesh fencing around the colony to keep out people and dogs, as well as electric fencing to keep out foxes, and other mammals, at night.

Success at Kilcoole

The Little Tern colony at Kicoole has grown from less than 20 nesting pairs to 140-150 pairs in recent years. Females lay 1-3 eggs in a slight depression (‘scrape’), which they incubate for 3 weeks.Rapid growth enables the young to take their first flights at between 2 and 3 weeks old, although they remain dependent on their parents for food.

A variety of predators do manage to take eggs and young: Red Foxes, Hooded Crows and Kestrels are perhaps the top three trouble-makers but each pair usually rears between 1 and 2 young in most years. Occasionally the colony may totally fail and this is most often due to spring tides and easterly winds.

 

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Little Tern

Ringed Plover

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Kilcoole Project Blog

Protection at Portrane

BirdWatch Ireland Fingal Branch volunteers made the decision to commence monitoring and protecting the Little Tern colony at Portrane beach in May 2018.  A few pairs had attempted to nest in previous years, but with limited success given the popularity of the beach with dog walkers and vulnerability to easterly winds. The Branch were successful in making 2018  a landmark year as 10 pairs managed to fledge 12 young by early August.

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Little Tern and Seabird News

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August 1, 2019

Arctic Tern chicks take flight on Dalkey Island

For the first time on record, this year Arctic Terns have successfully raised chicks on the main island of Dalkey, south Co. Dublin, giving the vulnerable colony, which is protected…

Latest Kilcoole Little Tern articles

Wings – Tern update 2017

An update of the Rockabill and Kilcoole Tern conservation projects in 2017, from our ‘Wings’ membership magazine.

Wings – Irish Little Tern in West Africa

Article from our ‘Wings’ membership magazine, about an Irish-ringed Little Tern spotted in West Africa.

Wings – 2017 Little Tern Project summary

An article from our ‘Wings’ membership magazine, reporting on the success of our Kilcoole Little Tern Protection project in summer 2017.

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