Seabird Monitoring

The seabird monitoring programme surveys seabird populations across Shetland and has been carried out since 1978. Factors such as the innate mobile nature of birds, migration patterns and their vulnerability to floating oil slicks and illegal discharge from passing tankers have all been taken into account when designing the programme.

The programme also complements similar survey work conducted during the breeding seasons by Scottish National Heritage, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and by Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust.



  • Surveying cliff-breeding populations – Northern Fulmar, Common Guillemot, Black Guillemot (also known as Tystie), Razorbill, European Shag and Black-legged Kittiwake.
  • Winter counts of diving seabirds and seaducks.
  • Beached bird surveys – monthly surveys of beached seabirds on selected beaches. If any oil is present on the birds then it is analysed to identify the origin and possible source of pollution.
  • Seabird ringing scheme.
  • Supplementary monitoring – contribution to surveys carried out on the Island of Foula relevant to SOTEAG’s needs.


Our seabird monitoring programme has been able to provide scientific evidence that over the course of 2012:

  • Shetland is home to the largest population of Slavonian Grebes in Great Britain.
  • There has been a decrease in the Common Eider population and a change in presence to surrounding aquaculture sites. The cause of the decline is unknown but no oiled Eiders have been found in the Beached Bird Surveys.
  • Percentage of oiled birds on Shetland’s beaches continues to be amongst the lowest in Europe.
  • There has been a continuing decline in numbers of many species – which has also been evident across the UK.
  • Operations at the Sullom Voe Terminal and its associated tanker traffic have not had any detrimental effects on Shetland’s seabird populations.

Please follow this link for recent Ornithological monitoring reports, or Contact Us for earlier reports.