Sensitivity of seabird species to plastics as nesting material (Development of a scoring system)

Until now, there are hardly any uniform ways of making a statement as quickly as possible, based on nest observations, as to how heavily a nest or colony is contaminated with plastic waste. Therefore, a scoring system is to be developed which will make it possible to compare the extent to which plastics are used as nesting material between different seabird species. The aim is to categorise the contamination on the basis of visual characteristics so that they can be applied on the basis of photographs and across a wide range of species.

Current status

In order to develope the scoring system, the first step was to collect data from nests of various seabird species. This happened in parts in 2020.

Species: Herring Gull, Lesser black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Black-headed Gull, Northern Gannet, Black-legged Kittiwake

Due to Corona, unfortunately not enough data could be collected from different species, so the dataset is still incomplete.


In spring 2021, data will be collected again to obtain a sufficient sample of the different species.

  • A student project will develop a model in spring 2021 to distinguish artificial from natural nesting material based on photographs
  • Data collection will take place in May and June 2021.

Picture right: Sandwich Tern nest