Seabird numbers and breeding success in Britain and Ireland, 2006

Black-legged kittiwake © Matt Parsons/JNCCThe 2006 results from the Seabird Monitoring Programme, which is co-ordinated by JNCC in partnership with several organisations, have just been published. Seabird numbers and breeding success in Britain and Ireland, 2006 describes a generally poor year in terms of breeding success, though more successful than in 2004 and 2005, when widespread breeding failures were reported.


Breeding numbers of black-legged kittiwakes reached an all-time low, following a sustained declined since the 1990s, while European shag numbers showed signs of a recovery from the effects of a mortality event in 2005.


Breeding started later than average for many species throughout the United Kingdom. Northern gannets, which normally show little variation in timing of breeding, laid three to four weeks later than the long-term average at Hermaness (Shetland) and Ailsa Craig (south Ayrshire), while Manx shearwaters on Rum (Lochaber), the species’ largest breeding colony in the world, bred later than any time since studies there started in 1969.


Low breeding success was reported in black-legged kittiwakes, common guillemots and razorbills, attributed to food shortages during the late chick-rearing period. Sandeels, a preferred prey species for many species appeared to be scarce, but instead relatively poor quality fish such as members of the cod family and, notably, snake pipefish were taken in many regions. Pipefish, until recent years, scarce in UK waters, are indigestible, contain little nutrition and have been known to cause fatal choking of puffin chicks. The reasons for the appearance of pipefish are unknown, but appear not to be related to increases in sea temperature.



Matt Parsons

Seabird Monitoring Programme Co-ordinator

Tel: +44 (0) 1224 655715