Shag: Fine-Scale Foraging Mapping Project

North Stacks

Fair Isle Fair Isle hosts an important European shag breeding population, which in line with many other populations in Scotland has declined rapidly in recent decades, with the species now added to the UK Birds of Conservation Concern Red list.

Shag demography is closely linked to their foraging habitats and prey, yet an understanding of the interactions between this important top predator and the marine ecosystem on Fair Isle remain poorly understood. Shags also provide a reliable and accessible indicator of prey populations, including commercially important fish species. With a restricted inshore distribution and benthic foraging, European shags are an exemplar indicator species for understanding the benthic habitats and prey stocks within the DR MPA.

To help better understand the ecology of this species on Fair Isle, novel tracking, diet and colour ringing data will be collected in this population to understand interactions between shags, benthic habitats, prey and threats within the DR MPA.

The project will encompass the following tasks:

  • To identify key prey species and provisioning rates for shag chicks throughout the breeding season. Shag diet data will provide important and novel information on the availability and quality of prey stocks.
  • Tracking data using GPS and depth loggers will allow shag foraging habitats to be identified along with any interactions with potential threats.
  • Colour ring re-sighting will allow wider movements of this colony to be quantified, including interactions with other colonies and sites.
  • Provide an opportunity for community monitoring of this population through colour ring re-sighting and pellet collection. Community engagement and results will be communicated through social media activities (including Twitter), virtual/physical seminars and educational events. 
  • Use tracking, diet and re-sighting data to help build a model the interactions between this shag population and the Fair Isle MPA ecosystem.
  • Explore similar studies for other seabird species present in the DR MPA.

This project is funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery through the National Trust for Scotland’s Love our Nature project.

Jump to Top