Little Terns were first recorded breeding at Kilcoole in 1853 during the construction of the railway line which still exists alongside the colony today. The tern colony has been offorded protection from wardening since 1985 under a joint intiative run by BirdWatch Ireland & National Parks & Wildlife Service. As a result of this work, the number of breeding birds has risen dramatically from as low as 14 pairs in 1985 to 106 pairs in 2006. In recent years, figures of 50-80 breeding pairs are more regular.
The Little Tern colony is located along a c.1km section of shingle beach half-way between Kilcoole & Newcastle, Co. Wicklow, beside "The Breaches", an estuarine channel which empties into the sea. The colony is one of many important wildlife features that can be found along the stretch of coastline between Greystones & Wicklow Town, an area known as "The Murrough".
The site can be accessed by travelling to Kilcoole village just off the N11 and taking the Sea Road from there which will lead you to the railway station car park on the coast. Walk south along the track in the dunes until you reach a large stand of Buckthorn bushes. The colony is just beyond them. This walk will also take you past the BirdWatch Ireland reserve near the car park & the NPWS reserve a little further south, known as "Webb's field". Alternatively you could travel to Newcastle village which is also just off the N11, take the Sea Road for Six Mile Point and walk north along the beach until you reach The Breaches. Both Kilcoole & Newcastle are serviced by Dublin Bus route number 84/a which runs from Blackrock, Co. Dublin. The DART line also services from Dublin City centre to Bray & Greystones which are also on the 84 route.
Adult Little Tern © Michael Finn