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Developing methods for counting dispersed bird populations - Urban Gull case study - BE0149

The aim of this investment is to develop, test and establish a cost-effective method for acquiring accurate urban gull population estimates. This will ensure that our policy decisions on protection and management of seabirds are widely defensible. This work would provide evidence for the use of the same cost-effective approach for monitoring other birds in different contexts, allowing long term financial savings for future monitoring and evaluations of policy interventions.

The UK is of international importance for many seabird populations, and under the Bern Convention, Defra has obligations to protect seabirds. Lesser black-back gull and herring gull are protected in the UK, and we are required to designate Special Protection Areas to maintain their population status. Numbers appear to be declining on some protected sites, and because we do not have a proven way to monitor seabirds in urban areas, we cannot assess whether these observed changes represent their national status (we know they are increasing in urban areas, but we do not know by how much). This leaves us vulnerable to challenge on our policy and delivery of wild bird and protected site policy, unable to fulfil our statutory reporting requirements, and unclear on our position with respect to local authorities responsibilities to balance biodiversity and public health obligations.

This work will provide data to address the immediate evidence gap in urban gull populations. It will support the Defra Strategy to develop tools and data to overcome gaps in our knowledge, and help to fill the major evidence gaps required to make policy recommendations and decisions, such as licensing, and responding to the conflicting opinions about gull conservation and management
Building on previous Natural England reports, develop and test a robust method of estimating seabird populations in urban areas2. The method should be designed to allow national level population estimates to be made in the future, through correction factors or otherwise, expecting wider survey work will rely on citizen science initiatives to deliver ground-based surveys.

Generate abundance estimates (with uncertainty) of herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls for the sampled areas.

Draft project report in such a way that it can be readily summarised into a scientific paper for submission to a suitable peer-reviewed journal. Consider effectiveness of methods derived and applicability to both the urban gull situation and to other wildlife surveys.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : 2020 - Urban Gulls Final Report   (3378k)
• ANX - Annex : 2020 - Urban Gulls ANNEX   (2163k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2018

To: 2020

Cost: £90,819
Contractor / Funded Organisations
British Trust For Ornithology (BTO)
Wildlife Management