Surveying seabirds — get involved

Northern Ireland is home to important populations of seabirds at the UK-level, and monitoring these is essential to their conservation.
Arctic Tern. Edmund Fellowes 

One problem with monitoring seabirds is that they often nest in inaccessible places including cliffs and islands. The survey period for some species is very short. Other species like shearwaters and petrels nest underground and only visit the colony at night, making it very difficult to monitor them.

On the plus side, seabird colonies are usually obvious, and even where the nests are cryptic (for example Black Guillemots) the adults are easily surveyed. Seabirds tend to visit the same colony each year and spread to new sites slowly so the majority of colonies are well known. Once a site is accessed most cliff and ground nesting species are easy to count.

The NI Seabird Coordinator is always looking for new volunteers to help out. Northern Ireland’s seabirds enjoy a good level of survey coverage compared to other parts of the UK. However, each year there are still sites that do not regularly receive any counts. Most survey sites are quite small and should not take more than a couple of hours each year to count. So if you can spare that time please get in touch.

Get involved in 2021

2021 is a particularly important year for seabird monitoring as it is the final year of the JNCC Seabirds Count census, a periodic stock-take of all seabirds in Britain and Ireland that is essential for assessing the health of our seabird populations. We still have sites that require survey effort, so if you have time to spare to make a one-off visit part of Northern Ireland’s beautiful coastline to count seabirds, katherine.boothjones [at] bto.org (please get in touch with the NI Seabird Coordinator) to be added to the Northern Ireland Seabird Network.

Northern Ireland Seabird Report

This annual report is the published outcome of the work of the BTO Northern Ireland Seabird Coordinator, and the activities of the evolving NI Seabird Network of volunteers and organisations such as National Trust, Ulster Wildlife and RSPB.

Browse NI Seabird Reports
Kittiwake. Richard Jackson

Our lost seabirds – help us secure their futures

We’re developing skilled volunteers to collect the data we need to inform scientific research and policy decisions. Without your support our seabirds could be lost forever.



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