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SAVE OUR BIRDS; Groups plea to help Manx Shearwaters after a resort's bright lights lure young to death.

Byline: ANNE LUCEY

BIRDWATCHERS have raised the alarm after young seabirds were killed because of bright lights in a tourist resort.

The Manx Shearwaters are coming a cropper on the streets of Dingle and roadways west of the town - led astray by illuminations in the peninsula.

Experts suspect public lighting in Dingle and Ballyferriter village is proving a fatal attraction to the young birds which spend most of their lives at sea and cannot walk on land.

A spokeswoman for the West Kerry Branch of BirdWatch Ireland, said the Manx are unharmed when they land but could quickly be killed by dogs, cats or cars.

She added: "They are placid to handle. Their parents left them fat and ready for a transatlantic journey so they will be comfortable enough for a couple of days in the quiet of a shed if necessary.''

The Manx Shearwater, relatives of the albatross, breed on the Baskets and Skellig islands off the coast of Kerry - the Great Blasket alone has one of Europe's most important populations of the diving nocturnal bird.

A recent hearing into a planning issue was told the island had a population of more than 3,500m making it one of the largest colonies in the country. At this time of year the young leave the islands to head south for the rich winter feeding grounds off South America.

However, several have landed under streetlights and were eaten by cats or run over by cars.

BirdWatch Ireland said this shearwater breeds underground in burrows and will only return to colonies "on dark, moonless nights".

It cannot walk on land and drags itself to the burrow, making it vulnerable to gull predation. This week alone two have been found in Dingle, one in the Grove and one in Ballyferriter.

The Grove bird was reported, collected and released to sea at night by local birdwatchers. However, the Ballyferriter bird was run over.

The rescue project is supervised by BWI conservation officer Dr Stephen Newton.

People finding birds in the area can contact volunteers Aine on 086-3596408 or Seamus on 087-9978661.

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AT RISK Manx Shearwater and, right, Great Blasket Island
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 4, 2009
Words:358
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