New visitor facilities on Bird Island

Between May and September Bird Island, Seychelles, hosts the world’s largest Sooty Tern colony that is readily accessible to tourists (there are a few larger breeding colonies of Sooty Terns in the Indian and Pacific Oceans but they are on islands that are not open to tourists). The approximate half a million pairs that breed on Bird Island usually lay their eggs in late May and June and feed their chicks during July and into September (and sometimes later).

Bird Island’s first Sooty Tern viewing platform in 1973 (Photo: Chris Feare)

The breeding colony is spectacular. The birds nest on the ground with up to 6 nests per square metre, extending over around 10 hectares of the northern part of the flat island. The sight and sound of all the birds was once described to me by an American visitor as “the eighth wonder of the world”!
Since the opening of the privately-owned island as a tourist destination in 1973, the owners have provided a platform from which visitors can take in the amazing vista and sounds of the main part of the Sooty Tern colony. Over the years the platforms have varied in structure, ease of use and safety, but this year a new platform in in place, offering stunning views of the main part of the colony. Especially in the evenings, the viewing platform provides good views of massive Frigatebirds as they come to roost for the night in tall Casuarina trees around the periphery of the Sooty Tern nesting area. The Frigatebirds are sometime accompanied by roosting Red-footed Boobies, contributing further to the seabird bonanza that the island has to offer.

The new platform overlooking the main part of the Sooty Tern colony (Photo: Chris Feare)

Another innovation in 2019 has been that the tracks around the island have been given names and provided with new simple but attractive signposts, made by the island’s new Conservation officer, Joana. It is difficult to get lost on such a small island, but it is now much easier for visitors to be directed to particular areas of the island for different activities,such as snorkeling, kayaking, or to see particular migrant birds that have arrived. For example, the Great Cormorant that was first seen in May 2018 (see blog of 14 June 2018) liked Bird Island so much that it has decided to stay and can still be regularly seen at Passe Cocos, resting on one of the small boats that is anchored there!

A new sign directing tourists to the Sooty Tern colony via a track through fragrant “Bwa Casan” tees (Photo: Chris Feare)

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