Report reveals latest Norwegian seabird trends


A new report has shown that 2021 was a better year for breeding seabirds in Norway, with a third of species enjoying successful seasons.

However, despite a higher reproduction rate for most species in the colonies monitored by SEAPOP in 2021 compared to 2020, breeding success was still only moderate overall.

Furthermore, the findings in the Key-site monitoring in Norway 2021, including Svalbard and Jan Mayen report, published by SEAPOP, showed that 2021 was a particularly poor year for Kittiwake and Northern Fulmar.

The most positive signals came from Spitsbergen and colonies in the North Sea, where several species increased in numbers and reproduced well.

It was the coastal surface-feeding species – Great Skua and large gulls – that fared best in 2021, with 44% of the populations having a good breeding success, especially in the Barents Sea. However, the positive trend was not evenly distributed. Although Glaucous Gull and Great Skua did well across all colonies, Great Black-backedLesser Black-backed and European Herring Gulls had much less successful years.

Glaucous Gull had a good breeding season in Norway in 2021 (Peter Beesley).

Most diving species – auks and cormorants – had moderate success in 2021, with 32% enjoying good breeding seasons and just a few populations faring badly. Poor breeding success among these species was noted in the Barents Sea.

Among the pelagic surface-feeding species, only Northern Gannet fared well. Kittiwakes and Northern Fulmars, on the other hand, were the clear losers in 2021, following the negative trends of previous years. Only two of the 13 monitored populations of these two species had good breeding success. However, Ivory Gulls in Spitsbergen had a good year.

The report shows that more than half of the seabird populations at SEAPOP's key sites declined between 2020 and 2021, corresponding to trends seen over the last decade. In the Barents Sea, pelagic seabirds declined the greatest compared to 2020 figures, the most marked drops being among Brünnich's Guillemots on Spitsbergen, Guillemots and Kittiwakes on Hornøya and Northern Fulmars on Bear Island.

Brünnich's Guillemot is struggling at many of its Norwegian breeding colonies (Paul Cools).

In the Norwegian Sea, many of the coastal species declined dramatically between 2020 and 2021. SEAPOP says in its report that large gull and cormorant populations "are of concern, with large declines over the last 10 years".

In the North Sea, several coastal species showed increased popoulations in 2021, but the overall national trends for Norwegian seabirds show that all species and species groups have declined in numbers. The few exceptions are provided by those seabirds that are expanding northwards, including Great Skua and Northern Gannet.

The full report can be read here.