Seabird city

Where to see a seabird colony

© Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Seabird colonies

As the warmth of the summer arrives, our seabirds head for the nesting cliffs after spending the winter feeding far out to sea. The cliffs and rocky islands of our coastline are home to some of the most important seabird colonies in Europe. Guillemots and razorbills, gannets and puffins, kittiwakes and fulmars, shags and cormorants, all cram onto ledges, making their nests amongst the jumble of rocks or find their space on the clifftops to take advantage of our rich summer seas. With thousands of birds in one place, the air is full of whirring wings as adults go back and forth, bringing food to their sitting partner or growing chicks.

Birds fight over nest sites, food and mates; chicks cry for their parents; an egg hatches; a young bird makes its first flight; and suddenly the whole colony is on the wing together, yelling in unison as a peregrine or marauding gull passes by

Find a seabird colony

The best seabird colonies are on the cliffs of our north and west coasts and the islands offshore. Our top pick is Handa Island on the north west coast of the Scottish Highlands. Magnificent Torridonian sandstone cliffs rise from the Atlantic where each summer, nearly 100,000 seabirds breed here, including internationally important numbers of guillemots, razorbills and great skuas. These dramatic cliffs provide stunning ocean panoramas. Other special spots include:

How to do it

Pack the binoculars and camera, and make sure you have plenty of time. Find a comfortable, sheltered spot with a good view down over the colony and then rest a while, taking it all in, and of course, taking care near the cliff top!

If you can't get to these places

You can watch the comings and goings of the seabirds at several colonies around the country on live Wildlife Trust webcams. See puffins and gannets in Alderney, kittiwakes in Gateshead and gulls and terns on Brownsea Island.

More wildlife experiences

From seeing colourful wildflowers to spotting magnificent birds of prey, we can help you get closer to wildlife across the UK.