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03 September, 2021

Seabird numbers decline by almost 50%

Seabird numbers decline by almost 50%: Guillemots at Fowlsheugh ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Numbers of breeding seabirds in Scotland have declined by almost 50% since the 1980s, a new report shows.

NatureScot has published its latest biodiversity indicator looking at 11 species of breeding seabirds.

The results show that numbers fell by 49% between 1986 and the most recent estimate in 2019.

Arctic skua continues to show the largest decline (81%), with reductions in the availability of sandeels and increased predation from great skuas understood to be factors affecting the species. Common tern numbers have also dropped sharply by 48%.

Meanwhile guillemot numbers have increased by 17% since 2016 and are now at a similar level to the early 2000s.

Other species – such as herring gull – also appear to be stabilising, albeit at lower levels than the 1986 baseline year.

Simon Foster, NatureScot’s Trends & Indicator Analyst, said: “While there are some positive signs of stabilisation in some species, overall our internationally important breeding seabird populations are continuing to decline.

“We know that these declines are driven by factors including climate change, fisheries and invasive non-native species.

“The Scottish Government’s forthcoming Scottish Seabird Conservation Strategy will be a crucial step in shedding more light on the pressures and threats that our seabirds face and setting out action to help secure their future.”


Contact information

NatureScot Media
0131 316 2655

NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

’S e NatureScot buidheann nàdair na h-Alba. Bidh sinn a’ neartachadh àrainneachd na h-Alba agus a’ brosnachadh dhaoine gu barrachd suim a chur ann an nàdar. Tha e mar phrìomhachas againn gum bi nàdar na h-Alba beairteach agus gun dèilig sinn gu h-èifeachdach le èiginn na gnàth-shìde. Tha an tuilleadh fiosrachaidh aig no air Twitter aig


Guillemots at Fowlsheugh ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Guillemots at Fowlsheugh ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

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Arctic Skua, Isle of Noss NNR, Shetland. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Arctic Skua, Isle of Noss NNR, Shetland. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

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