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Seabird Population Trends and Causes of Change: 1986-2015 Report Category

Here we present the latest analysed trends in population numbers and breeding success, productivity, survival and diet of breeding seabirds, from the Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP), along with interpretive text on the likely causes of change based on the most recent research.

It replaces and builds upon the now discontinued annual publication Seabird numbers and breeding success in Britain and Ireland. Like it, this online report will be updated annually.

Trend information is presented at the UK level and separately for Scotland, Wales, England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, all-Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Interpretation of trends and reasons for change are given largely at the UK level, unless there is country-specific evidence.

A download of data points presented in the graphs of abundance and productivity under species accounts is available on request.

The table below contains links to the species accounts and provides at-a-glance UK population trends (as percentage of change in breeding numbers) from complete censuses undertaken in 1969-70 (Operation Seafarer), 1985-88 (Seabird Colony Register, hereafter SCR), and 1998-2002 (Seabird 2000). Change from 1998-2002 to 2015 (i.e. over the period since the last national census) is estimated from trends derived from the SMP sample of colonies; this analysis is only available for species with sufficient data to accurately estimate trends.


View the methods of analysis of breeding abundance and productivity data presented in the species accounts.


This report should be cited as: JNCC. 2016. Seabird Population Trends and Causes of Change: 1986-2015 Report. Joint Nature Conservation Committee. Updated September 2016.  (Previous SMP Annual Reports & other SMP related Publications are also available)


PLEASE NOTE: Where sufficient data are available, confidence intervals which show the variability of species’ breeding abundance trends can be found under the ‘Annual abundance and productivity by geographical area’ sections within each species chapter.


Population change (%)

1969-70 to 1985-88

Population change (%)

1985-88 to 1998-2002

Population change (%)

1998-2002 to 2015

Northern fulmar




Manx shearwater




European storm-petrel




Leach's storm-petrel




Northern gannet




Great cormorant




European shag




Arctic skua




Great skua




Black-legged kittiwake




Black-headed gull




Mediterranean gull




Common gull




Lesser black-backed gull




Herring gull




Great black-backed gull




Little tern




Sandwich tern




Common tern




Roseate tern




Arctic tern












Black guillemot




Atlantic puffin




* change between censuses in 1984-85 and 2004-05.

** change between census in 2003-04 and colonies surveyed in 2013-14 and 2015.

*** change between censuses in 1982-91 and 1998-2002.


Information about the population status of the common birds of the wider UK countryside (updated to 2015) can be accessed via the BTO report BirdTrends: trends in numbers and demography for UK breeding birds.

Published: .

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