De-ratting Manx Shearwater colonies: not a Scilly idea

The small populations of Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus that breed on the UK's Isles of Scilly are set to get a boost via a Seabird Recovery Project.  Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the EU LIFE Programme has been secured to address a number of conservation issues in the archipelago, including removing rats from the inhabited islands of St Agnes and Gugh, which support breeding seabirds, such as the shearwater, as well as the European Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus.

"The project will be managed by a coalition of groups including RSPB, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Duchy of Cornwall[,] the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) partnership and a representative from the islands, with support from the Isles of Scilly Bird Group.  A project manager has recently been appointed" (click here).

The Isles of Scilly consist of five inhabited islands and numerous other small rocky islets off Cornwall in the south of England.  The largest population (123 burrows out of a total of 201 counted on six of 14 islands in 2000) of Manx Shearwaters breeds on the uninhabited 22-ha islet of Annet.  However, this population had decreased from pre 2000 censuses, although "[t]he successful removal of rats from the uninhabited island of St. Helen's resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of Manx shearwaters breeding there."  Annet is run as a wildlife sanctuary and its Norwegian or Brown Rats Rattus norvegicus have already been removed, unlike on the inhabited islands.

Click here to see which procellariiform seabirds may be seen on pelagic trips from the Scilly Isles, including the ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwater P. mauretanicus.

Selected References:

Brooke, M. de L. 1990.  The Manx Shearwater.  London: T & AD Poyser.  246 pp.

Lock, L, Brown, A., Webber, J., Mawer, D. & St. Pierre, P. 2009. Isles of Scilly Seabird Conservation Strategy 2009-2013.

Newton, S.F., Thompson, K. & Mitchell, P.I. 2004.  Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus.  In: Mitchell, P.I., Newton, S.F., Ratcliffe, N. & Dunn, T.E.  Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland.  Results of the Seabird 2000 Census (1998-2002). London: Christopher Helm.  pp. 63-80.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 January 2013

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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