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Isle of Canna Seabird Survey

Since 1969 volunteers from the Highland Ringing Group have been monitoring Canna’s nationally important seabirds. This involves three visits to the island each year in order to cover the entire seabird breeding season. Canna is one of the Key sites in the national Seabird Monitoring Programme run by the British Trust for Ornithology on behalf of the Joint Nature Conservancy Council.

The main aim of the monitoring work on Canna is to do annual counts of the number of seabirds breeding on the island to ascertain long term trends. In addition monitoring plots have been established so that breeding productivity for selected species can be measured and trends calculated. I order to help explain variations in breeding productivity we collect food samples from selected species.

In addition there has been a long term commitment to ringing a large sample of birds each year. This allows us to establish dispersal patterns of both adults and young birds when they leave the island at the end of the breeding season. By recapturing ringed birds in subsequent years we can work out survival rates and how these vary from year to year. We can also examine variations in the age of first breeding and return rates of chicks back to the island. In recent years we have embraced new technology such as geolocaters and GPS trackers to establish dispersal patterns from the island, define important areas outwith the breeding season, and timings of departure from, and return to the island.

The data we gather is submitted to the Seabird Monitoring Programme database. Data from the tracking studies can be found on the SEATRACK website. Annual reports are also produced and distributed to a range of organisations, including the National Trust for Scotland.

We receive a small grant from the Seabird Monitoring Programme to help cover our expenses. The NTS supports us by providing accommodation at Kates Cottage for the three monitoring visits. They also provide access to freezers to assist with our catering. It is vital that this support continues in the long term so that we can continue to monitor Canna’s seabird population, particularly during this period of rapid climatic change.


We love our wildlife here in Canna and we love to hear about what our visitors have seen!

While you are here, head to the community shop and write your wildlife sightings on our board!

Wildlife Sightings 2024

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Wildlife Sightings 2023

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