Highlands & Islands

Scotland-led study into plastic pollution impact on birds

European shag with pollution in nest Image copyright UHI
Image caption European shag with plastic in a nest on Stroma in Scotland

Pictures of birds entangled in plastic and nests built with the waste are being collected by Scottish researchers.

They want people from around the world to contribute to the "citizen science" project by uploading their images to a new website.

Academics in the Highlands will use the information to understand into the scale of the plastic pollution problem.

They also hope to find out which species is at greatest risk.

The website has been launched by researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands and is being led by Dr Neil James, of Thurso's Environmental Research Institute, North Highland College UHI.

He said: "While there is a lot of anecdotal evidence about the impact debris such as plastics have on birds, there have been very few studies on entanglement and nest incorporation.

"We hope that enlisting the help of the public through citizen science will help us to build up a picture about the scale and geographical spread of this issue.

"People from around the globe are encouraged to help us collect information."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Incidents of plastic pollution affecting birds has been sought from all over the world

Dr James said contributors to the project were asked not to disturb any birds and to take images of nests from a suitable vantage point.

He added: "Users are also reminded that injured birds can be reported to a local vet, animal welfare charity or independent rescue centre."

Dr Alex Bond, senior curator of birds at the Natural History Museum, has welcomed the research.

Dr Bond said: "With the production of plastics increasing exponentially and an ever-increasing societal awareness of its problems, our ability to pull together information on how it affects wildlife has never been more urgent or more possible."