The prevalence and source of plastic incorporated into nests of five seabird species on a small offshore island

Danielle L. Thompson* (Corresponding Author), Thomas S. Ovenden, Tom Pennycott, Ruedi G. Nager

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


There is little evidence documenting the prevalence of plastic nest incorporation for different seabird species and populations, and even less detailing the source of such debris as nesting material. This study presents a baseline dataset on the presence of plastic in the nests of five seabird species on Lady Isle, Scotland using a novel and repeatable methodology for quantifying plastic incorporated into nests. Plastic was found in 24.5% to 80% of nests of all species. We analysed pellets of regurgitated material and the spatial distribution of herring gull nests containing plastic in the context of the tide and nesting habitat. Differences in the types of plastic found in pellets and nests suggests that plastic incorporated into herring gull nests was not derived at foraging sites and likely collected from the local environment. Targeted beach cleans before the breeding season could help minimise the quantity of plastic available to herring gulls.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111076
Number of pages8
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Early online date26 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Declaration of competing interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

The authors wish to thank Dave Grant, Hayley Douglas and Agnes Olin for help in the field, Nina O'Hanlon and Agnes Olin for comments on a previous draft of the manuscript, Matt Page for help with assessing tidal flow directions in the study area, and Maria Bogdanova for the discussion of analyses. We are very grateful to the editor and to two anonymous reviewers for their positive and constructive comments which have ultimately strengthened this manuscript.


  • Plastic ingestion
  • Nest-building
  • North Atlantic
  • Marine debris
  • Plastic pollution
  • Litter


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