OEUK news

Offshore nesting bird census launched

2 May 2024

Offshore Energies UK & Xodus launch Offshore Nesting Bird Census

The offshore energy industry is launching a new Offshore Nesting Bird Census (ONBC) to better understand how endangered sea birds use oil and gas platforms for nesting and rearing chicks.

The aim is to gain insight into geographic distribution of these unconventional breeding sites and how they are used, so new data and knowledge can be shared.

The census which has been created by Dr MacNeill Ferguson an ecological specialist from energy consultants Xodus, will take place in June 2024. Subsequent annual surveys will provide long-term data highlighting the extent to which birds are nesting offshore.

The initiative has been welcomed by the industry and is supported by the government’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Existing UK data has highlighted the prevalence of kittiwakes nesting on platforms in the Southern North Sea, the area between Norfolk and the coast of Holland. However, other records have shown them nesting on platforms elsewhere off UK coasts.

The population of these distinctive small gulls has declined by 40% in recent years, and they are now on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature red list meaning they are at risk of global extinction.

There is similar concern about razorbills, guillemots, herring gulls and even carrion crows which are also known to use offshore energy platforms to nest.

Much of the North Sea’s oil and gas infrastructure is now being decommissioned and dismantled as UK fossil fuel resources decline. Operators are legally obliged to avoid disturbance to nesting birds during this process and data from the survey will help inform decision making during decommissioning by providing up to date information as well as a unique scientific data source on sea bird behaviour.

It is hoped that all 24 Southern North Sea platform operators will take part.

Caroline Brown, Offshore Energies environment manager, said: “We are delighted to be involved in the ONBC, which we hope will become an annual exercise. Some UK seabirds are facing a significant decline in numbers, and it is vital to have a better understanding of their nesting behaviour in order to help protect them.  We are confident the aims of this important survey will appeal to our offshore workforce and have a significant value to scientists.”

Dr MacNeill Ferguson, Ecological Specialist at Xodus said: “There is a real opportunity here for operators to work collaboratively on a project. Sharing ecological data aids planning and benefits the environment through ecologically coherent decision making. It also provides an opportunity for operators who protect and monitor the birds to record a biodiversity net gain from their presence in the North Sea.”

There will be a short Q&A session where Dr MacNeill Ferguson (Xodus) will be answering questions about the census, how it works and what the goals are. This is a live interactive session and is open to all. It will be held on 8th May 2024 12:00 – 12:45 in collaboration with the E-Reps Network. Join the guestlist – Get Involved: Offshore Bird Nesting Census Kick Off Q&A – Zoom, Wed 8 May 2024 12:00 PM – 12:45 PM (tickettailor.com)


To support all operators in the participation of this initiative, OEUK are also hosting an Xodus led training workshop on the 30th May 2024 10:00 – 12:00, to provide some key skills in effective identification of nesting birds typically seen offshore. This session will include a brief introduction to seabird ID, a summary of how birds utilise offshore platforms and a guide on how to assess nesting behaviour and/or nest status. This will furnish observers with the tools they need to confidently contribute to the ONBC 2024. Please register your interest here.

for more information please contact Lois Rogers national media advisor [email protected] 07538 552 909.


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