About the project

Birds and debris: the problem

Anthropogenic debris is a global environmental issue, which can impact a wide range of species, especially birds. Marine debris (mostly plastic) has affected at least 36% of all seabird species through entanglement – at sea or at the nest where debris is used as nesting material.

But it is not just seabirds. Terrestrial and freshwater birds can also get entangled and incorporate debris into their nests. Given the amount of debris that can occur around towns and cities, and in farmland areas, nest incorporation by terrestrial birds may be greater than we think.

Currently, we do not fully understand which birds are affected, or where, by entanglement and nest incorporation of debris. Or what impact debris may have on individuals and populations. However, you can help us investigate this by uploading information for any bird species, anywhere in the world, for any type of debris (i.e. plastic, metal, glass, fabric).

Get involved

To get involved upload your image of an entangled bird or a nest with debris incorporated. If you have no image, describe what you saw. Keep an eye out for entangled birds washed up on the beach. Or look out for debris in nests when you visit a seabird colony or local pond, or when you clear out your nest boxes. To keep you and the birds safe don’t get too close! Take pictures of nests at a distance from a suitable vantage point, without disturbing any wildlife.

This information will help us identify which species are affected by debris and where. As well as what types of debris, from different sources, are involved and the extent of injury and mortality. Your images will also help us highlight the extent of the problem globally, and that it is not just a marine issue.

If you provide your contact details we will update you on our findings at the end of the project.

As each submitted image needs to be approved, there will be a short delay before images are shown on the website.

For some species we will not share images or show the location of nests on our map – however these contributions are valuable and they will be included in our research.

Injured, entangled birds can be reported to a local vet, animal welfare charity or independent rescue centre.

If you have any questions or would like more information then please contact Neil.James@uhi.ac.uk


About us

BirdsAndDebris.com is run by researchers at the Environmental Research Institute, part of both the North Highland College UHI, and the University of the Highlands and Islands. We are seeking to better understand and highlight the extent of bird-debris interactions, as part of the project Blue Circular Economy, a project funded under the ERDF Interreg VB Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) Programme.