Saturday, October 30, 2021


Birds and lighthouses have always had a strange sort of relationship. Keepers, both of lighthouses and lightships, were often recruited as amateur ornithologists and encouraged to send specimens to scientific organisations. Some of them actually became quite professional and were able to identify birds rarely if ever seen on our coasts.
At night, birds are attracted to the beams, often flying straight at the glass and extinguishing themselves rather than the light. Keepers have often reported hundreds of birds lying dead and stunned at the base of a lighthouse on waking up in the morning. Some would fly straight at the lantern and break their beaks. Others would throttle themselves on the lattice work surrounding the lantern, some would fall prey to lighthouse cats.
Ducks were no exception, migrating birds often finding the warm glow of the lighthouse beam a tempting encouragement to break their journey and rest. According to nineteenth century reports, many were killed by breaking their wings while flapping around the lantern; others actually split themselves in two, divebombing the lantern from a height, beak first.
Then there was this beauty who, in 1856, actually succeeded in getting inside the lantern!

Cork Constitution 11th September 1856

96 years later, an extremely obliging duck sacrificed itself in order to feed the poor starving keepers on the Tuskar Rock.

Evening Echo 1st December 1952

Obviously a duck flying headfirst at a lighthouse had the capacity to do an awful amount of damage, as this report from Flamborough Head in England in 1879 demonstrates: -

It should, however, be pointed out that, in this strange relationship between duck and lighthouse, it was not always the duck who came off second best.

Belfast Telegraph 15th April 1938


  1. Love the bit about procuring a bicycle to go for help.

  2. Yes, its very silent-movie, isn't it? Actually, its quite incredible that Irish Lights didn't introduce proper communication equipment into lighthouses until well into the 20th century.