Skellig Michael, along with the neighbouring Little Skellig, is internationally renowned as one of the most important sites for breeding seabirds in Ireland. The very nature of these islands provides a safe haven for immensely important populations of seabirds, where they can nest and rear their young. The surrounding Atlantic Ocean provides rich feeding grounds whilst making access difficult for humans and keeping the islands free from predators.
The Skellig islands have been recognised as two of Ireland’s most important sites for breeding seabirds for several hundred years. Both the size of the seabird colonies and the diversity of species present make these islands very significant, both on a national and an international scale. Due to its ornithological importance, Skellig Michael is designated as a Statutory Nature Reserve, a Special Protection Area and is also a proposed Natural Heritage Area.
Skellig Michael, along with the Blasket island group (of five islands) and Puffin Island, supports some of the biggest breeding populations of manx shearwater and storm petrel in the world. Other seabird species breeding on Skellig Michael include fulmar, kittiwake, guillemot and puffin.
Skellig Michael is known as a traditional eyrie for peregrine falcon, however the birds do not breed here every year. One pair of chough is recorded as breeding here. Other birds recorded as breeding in small numbers include raven, rock pipit and wheatear.
Several mammals have been recorded on Skellig Michael over the years. Grey Seal haul out on rocky ledges around the island and while the numbers are not significant on a national scale, they add to the diversity of the island’s fauna. This species is listed under Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive and the Irish population is monitored regularly. Other mammals recorded comprise rabbit and house mouse. The rabbit is a relatively recent introduction, having been brought to the island in the early nineteenth century.
Much of Skellig Michael is composed of poorly vegetated habitats such as rocky sea cliffs and exposed rock. The vegetation that does occur is typical of highly exposed maritime conditions, limited by thin soil, steep ground, salt spray and high winds. Common plant species include thrift, sea campion and rock sea-spurrey, with patches of red fescue, dock and sea mayweed occurring frequently.
Council Directive of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds (79/409/EEC) provides for the conservation of wild birds by, among other things, classifying important ornithological sites as Special Protection Areas for them. The effect of these Regulations is to designate a site as a Special Protection Area in accordance with Article 4 of the Directive and to provide that contravention of the provisions of these Regulations shall constitute an offence.
You can now download copies of S.I. No. 74 of 2010 (238 KB)