Distribution Britain 97 (+38.6%) Ireland 0
Numbers breeding: Britain 8,500 Ireland 0
European status: 13,700 (58% in Britain and Ireland =1)
British population trend: increasing and expanding
How likely are you to record it? 11 squares (0.2%) Ranked 148=
These birds probably first colonised Scotland in Shetland (where they are known as Bonxies) in about 1750. At first they were welcome as they kept predators away from the sheep and lambs but they were the target of collectors through the next 150 years and there were still few breeding by 1900. Since then they have been protected and the numbers may have doubled every decade until 1970! They now breed on Shetland (ca. 90%), Orkney, the Western Isles and the North and North-west coast of the mainland. The expansion southwards looks set to continue gradually but the breeding success was so bad on Shetland that the population there declined for a while about 10 years ago. The birds are now doing better and breeding numbers are increasing as well as, rather significantly, the non-breeding birds in the club areas. These birds may be serious predators of other seabirds (see Marine and Coastal) and even hazard the continued existence of colonies of small petrels at sites like St Kilda where 145 pairs in 1994 had increased to 271 by 1997! There may be problems ahead for them as new European regulations about discards from trawlers restrict their 'free lunches'. However these are very resourceful birds. Very much on the up and up.
Phillips, R.A., Thompson, D.R. & Hamer, K.C. 1999 J. Appl. Ecol.: 36, 218-232.
Phillips, R.A. et al. 1999 Bird Study: 46, 174-183.
The following Bird On! sketch is available:
Search for another Species
From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead