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West Coast

Bird Island – Reserve and Tourist Attraction

Located some 100m off the shore of Lambert's Bay, Bird Island is a fascinating natural attraction along the Cape West Coast. Connected to the mainland by means of a breakwater, Bird Island is home to a large population of seabirds. The island is under the protection of CapeNature to ensure that the wildlife residing there is preserved for decades to come.

Unfortunately, Bird Island did not fare well in the past due to human interference. Between 1888 and 1990 guano collectors frequented the island to bring the rich guano back for fertilizer. So as to make their jobs easier a part of the island was paved. The number of penguins residing on the Bird Island soon began declining during this time as guano formed the basis of their nests. During this time period penguin eggs were picked up as they were once a popular delicacy. Another factor which negatively impacted on Bird Island was the construction of the breakwater in 1959. This provided easy access for people to the island but also for domestic cats, rats and mongooses who would feed on the chicks and eggs. Fortunately though, since that time great efforts have been made to protect the birds of Bird Island Reserve. Artificial structures have been set up to encourage the penguins on the island to breed, thus their numbers have grown to about 60. Bird Island is a vital breeding area for seabirds, especially cormorants and Cape gannets. Interestingly the island is just one of the world’s 6 sites where Cape gannets breed.

Bird Island Reserve has become a top tourist attraction on the Cape west coast. The new gannet lookout provides visitors to the island with an opportunity to view the birds and enjoy their antics. Sign posts scattered throughout offer interesting pieces of information about the island’s inhabitants. Pop into the visitor centre for a light snack at the coffee shop and to view the curio shop, auditorium, penguin pool and aquarium. Here you can also view a video showing the history of the island.