High fliers pose a threat to rare birds


INCREASED helicopter traffic brought about by increased prosperity is causing problems for some of Ireland's rarest birds, according to Irish Wildbird Conservancy's BirdWatch.

Dr Stephen Newton, of BirdWatch Ireland, has said helicopter traffic was disrupting breeding terns along the east coast.

He appealed to people flying in and out of Dalkey and Killiney by helicopter to use inland approaches to their destinations because low-flying helicopters frighten the birds which are currently nesting.

"I suppose you could say this is a downside of the Celtic Tiger because more and more people are using helicopters to travel and the birds are being disturbed at the nesting sites," he said.

It was of vital importance that there be no disturbance of the nesting sites of the roseate tern, which is one of Europe's rarest seabirds. Ireland is the nesting place of 95 per cent of the European population.

Ireland had 770 breeding pairs last year and most of them breed on Rockabill, off Dublin, and Lady's Island, Wexford, he said.

"We are attempting to establish a third breeding colony on Maiden's Rock in Dublin Bay and that is why we are attempting to get helicopter operators to stay away from these areas," he said.

He added that the organisation expected helicopter traffic generated from the pending Murphy's Irish Open Golf Competition at Druid's Glen to cause severe disruption to the breeding of the little tern colony at Kilcoole, Co Wicklow.

"Helicopters will be passing over the nesting sites ferrying people from the course to Dublin centre city hotels and we know there will be disruption unless pilots agree to avoid the areas involved," said Dr Newton.

"I am not just blaming helicopters because walkers at Kilcoole and windsurfers who land on the islands at Lady's Island lake in Wexford also cause problems for the birds at nesting time."

Members of the public are welcome to view the terns from the Irish Wildbird Conservancy observation point at the Dalkey Island carpark each evening and at weekends until mid August.

The tern protection schemes are administered by BirdWatch Ireland through funding from the EU Interreg Programme and are supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Novartis Crop Protection.