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Seabirds Count: 4th Breeding Seabird Census

Case Study 2020

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Seabirds Count – the fourth Breeding Seabird Census

At the time of the last seabird census (Seabird 2000, 1998–2002), over 8 million seabirds bred in Britain and Ireland each year. Since then, evidence of widespread declines in productivity (number of chicks fledged per pair) have emerged which may be driving declines in breeding population size. To understand how seabird populations are changing, another complete census – Seabirds Count – is being undertaken to complement the annual Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP).  

Census data are essential for assessing seabird population health and vital for understanding the conservation status of our internationally important seabirds, the effects of climate change on marine environments, and to inform marine planning.  The Seabirds Count census is running from 2015 until 2021. 

Seabirds Count was developed by the SMP Partnership and is being co-ordinated by JNCC. Census work began in 2015 and, to date, has incorporated data collected by volunteers and professional surveyors as part of ongoing SMP annual monitoring and from other survey initiatives such as Common Standards Monitoring of the UK’s breeding seabird SPA network.

Over the period of the census, over 10,000 breeding colonies will need to be surveyed. In addition to the usual natural sites where you would expect to find breeding seabirds, this census also aims to conduct a survey of urban nesting gulls, adding over 5,000 1 km squares to the total sites being surveyed.

Considering the large volume of sites to visit, it is no surprise that volunteer effort will be essential for the completion of Seabirds Count. There are currently 47 volunteer regional co-ordinators across Scotland and England, organising surveys of colonies and squares within their county. If you would like to volunteer and take on a site (or several), please contact us and tell us which area you would like to help in.

You can keep up to date with the census progress by following our Twitter feed and using the project’s hashtag, #SeabirdsCount.

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