Home of the Manx Shearwater: the iconic island of Skokholm is becoming a bird observatory once more

Skokholm lies off the Pembrokeshire coast of Wales in the Irish Sea.  From 1932 to 1976 it was operated as a bird observatory (the UK's first) with studies undertaken on its breeding seabirds, notably the Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus and Puffin Fratercula arctica.

Ronald Lockley was the first warden and gave Skokholm the reputation of being one of the best studied (and written about) islands in the world.  However, banding studies were halted in 1976 and shearwater studies switched to nearby Skomer Island, which is managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

In 2006 the Trust took over the management of Skokholm and it is once more becoming a bird observatory with a resident warden and banding recommencing.

The Pembrokeshire islands of Skokholm, Skomer, Middleholm and Ramsey together support a major part of the Manx Shearwater's global population.  In 1998 the Skokholm population was estimated as 46 200 pairs utilizing tape playback of male calls to determine burrow occupancy, less than half that of Skomer at 101 800 breeding pairs.  The most recent population figures quoted are 45 000 pairs on Skokholm and 120 000 breeding pairs on Skomer (click here).

The Manx Shearwater conservation status is categorised as Least Concern.  For an informative fact sheet on the Manxies of Skomer click here.

Selected References:

Brooke, M. de L. 1990.  The Manx Shearwater.  London: T & AD Poyser.  246 pp.
Lockley, R.M. 1941.  The Way to an Island. London: J.M. Dent & Sons.  208 pp.
Lockley, R.M. 1942.  Shearwaters.  London: J.M. Dent & Sons.  238 pp.
Lockley, R.M. 1947.  Letters from Skokholm.  London: J.M. Dent & Sons.  243 pp.
Lockley, R.M. 1953.  Puffins. London: J.M. Dent & Sons.  186 pp.
Lockley, R.[M.] 1969.  The Island.  London:  Andre Deutsch.  192 pp.
Newton, S.F., Thompson, K. & Mitchell, P.I. 2004.  Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus.  In: Mitchell, P.L., 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, 4 February 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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