Coast & Sea Areas

Wild Harris

St Kilda

St Kilda 3 LCampbell.jpgSt Kilda    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

The islands of St Kilda lie 40 miles to the west of Harris. St Kilda is one of the most important places for seabirds in the world – which is why it has been selected as a World Heritage Site.

Long before man ever set foot on St Kilda, seabirds discovered it and found it was a good place to nest. There were no predators like rats and cats, and it was close to good places to find fish.

The numbers of seabirds that now nest on St Kilda are almost too big to believe! There are hundreds of thousands of seabirds nesting here, including kittiwakes, puffins, guillemots, razorbills, gannets, petrels, fulmars and skuas. Most of the Leach’s storm petrels that nest in the eastern Atlantic nest on St Kilda.
There are over fifteen thousand pairs of puffins alone! More than one third of all the seabirds in the Western Isles nest on St Kilda – a total of about six hundred thousand seabirds.

St Kilda 1 LCampbell.jpgSt Kilda    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

 

As well as the main island of Hirta, there are some amazing sea stacks, like Stac an Armin and Stac Lee. This is where most of the gannets nest. St Kilda is the biggest gannet colony in the world – there are over fifty thousand pairs breeding here.

Great Auk

The largest of the auk family, the great auk, used to nest on St Kilda. They could not fly and so were easy for men to catch. As they were good to eat, lots were killed and they eventually became extinct. The last one to live on St Kilda was in 1840, and the last great auks in the world were killed in Iceland in 1844.

St Kilda Wren

Almost any bird can reach St Kilda if the wind is strong enough and in the right direction. Some quite small birds have been able to fly there and stay to nest. One of these is the St Kilda wren. Wren have lived on St Kilda for so long, that they now look different to the wrens back in Harris. It is bigger and has a thicker bill, that it uses to feed on insects found in the puffin colonies.

St Kilda Mouse

Vikings brought the field mouse to lots of islands, including St Kilda. They also look quite different to the mice in Harris – they are much bigger and look a bit like mini hamsters! Fortunately there are no rats on St Kilda, as they would eat the eggs and chicks of the seabirds.

by Alison Tyler

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