It’s time to sea-birds on the cliffs of RSPB South Stack

Rhys Aneurin

Friday 13 March 2020

Razorbill | The RSPB

As spring approaches, seabirds are arriving back to their nesting colonies, highlighting the importance of this location as a breeding hotspot in Wales.

As spring approaches, seabirds like razorbills, guillemots and puffins are starting to return to their nest sites on RSPB South Stack, Anglesey. This annual event happens when the seasons change from winter to spring, and as birds arrive in their hundreds, it is a reminder that this location is of national importance in Wales for breeding seabirds.

Not only is RSPB South Stack a place of great pride for the people of Anglesey - it’s also a vitally import location to Wales as a hotspot for seabirds. Nesting each year at RSPB South Stack is approximately 11% razorbill and 19% guillemot of Wales’ breeding population, and these numbers have risen dramatically over the past years. In 1999, 612 razorbills were counted, whereas in 2019, the number had risen to almost 1400. The number of guillemots has also risen – from 3315 in 1999 to around 11,000 last summer. Other notable species that make the annual stay are fulmars and kittiwakes, who will nest on exposed ledges and near-inaccessible parts of cliff-faces.

This shows the great importance that RSPB South Stack holds, along with other hotspots on our coastline. The UK hosts 25 species of regularly breeding seabird, and Wales is home to 20 of those. One of these species is puffins, and despite worrying declines in their numbers seen in other parts of the UK, they are doing relatively well in Wales, with RSPB South Stack one of their locations for nesting.

We are also learning even more about our seabirds who reside on our coastline with the help of new technology. Using cutting edge GPS data at other seabird colonies in Wales, we have been able to track the movement of 12 species of seabird – including razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and shags - therefore enabling us to see what parts of our coastline most frequented, and what waters are used most for feeding. One factor which has seen South Stack develop into a crucial nesting site is the introduction of legislation in the 1980s which restricted climbers’ access to cliff-faces where birds nest. This has seen seabirds use these sites freely without threat of disturbance, and as a result, numbers at South Stack have soared.

RSPB South Stack Site Manager, Laura Kudelska, said:

“Every year, staff, volunteers and visitors look forward to seeing the guillemots, razorbills and puffins off RSPB South Stack. They feel like old friends as we count them, watch them on our live cameras and with our binoculars. Thousands of people flock to see them, for some it is a wish list experience. RSPB South Stack is one of the UK’s most accessible sites to see these birds and they bring so much happiness to people from far and wide.

“RSPB South Stack is also an important location for other wildlife, like choughs and peregrine falcons. The rich wildflower habitats on the cliff tops also provides attracts an amazing diversity of butterflies, like the silver-studded blue. We have even been lucky enough to see orcas (killer whales) from the viewpoint at Elin’s Tower. It’s truly a spectacular place for nature, and we hope that people who visit this reserve will leave feeling inspired and passionate about protecting nature.”


Editor’s notes:

  1. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

  2. Further Wales-specific information regarding the seabird tracking project available on request

  3. A citizen-science project called ‘Puffarazzi’ is in action, which encourages the public to photograph puffins eating fish, to build further understanding of feeding habits. Learn more here:

Last Updated: Wednesday 1 April 2020

Tagged with: Country: Wales