RSPB Maps Seabird Hotspots off Britain and Ireland

A study led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has revealed where Britain and Ireland’s seabirds go when they are not on land and the information obtained will be used to assess potential impacts from offshore wind farms on local populations of birds.

The five year project GPS-tracked over 1,300 breeding seabirds and used computer models to predict where they go to find food.

The study used five years of tracking data to estimate the areas used by four species: kittiwakes, shags, razorbills and guillemots.

The results reveal that the majority of ‘hotspots’, where seabirds gather to feed, are concentrated in the coastal waters of Scotland. Overall, the four species use at least 1.5 million square km of sea around Britain and Ireland – an area three times the size of Spain, according to the study.

This comes as the Scottish Government considers the creation of Special Protection Areas at sea to safeguard key seabird feeding areas, as well as planning future management of marine activities in Scottish waters outside of the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy, RSPB said.

“The methods used in this study could be applied to other seabird species, to show where they go at sea,” Dr Ellie Owen, who led on the tracking work, said.

”This will be an invaluable tool in helping to protect seabirds, as it will greatly improve our ability to assess the likely impacts on breeding seabirds of offshore wind farms, oil spills and other potentially harmful activities in our increasingly industrialised seas.”