Seabird Monitoring (SAM)

The Catalan Institute of Ornithology and the Alive Foundation are working to establish a methodology for monitoring seabirds. This study, based on citizen science , is of great interest because of the role these birds play as indicators of the health of the sea.

Bird census in Cap de Creus
Three-toed jackdaw

The 2020 state of nature report showed that, in Catalonia, marine biodiversity is poorly monitored and faces significant threats; overfishing, population pressure on the coast, climate change or the arrival of invasive exotic species. In the case of birds, although the Catalan coast has three Special Protection Zones for Birds (ZEPA) in the sea, they have numerous threatened species and suffer other impacts such as accidental capture in fishing gear. Detailed information is therefore needed to improve decision-making and management.


However, in the latest collection of information on bird populations in Catalonia, migratory birds, which include the most threatened seabirds, were the group with the most lack of information of the species that were discussed. This fact makes it necessary to create monitoring that aims to increase knowledge and can provide data on where, when and how many individuals of seabirds move along the Catalan coast. Even more, if we take into account that these species occupy the highest level of the trophic chains of the sea, which makes them very sensitive to the alterations suffered by the marine environment and that, therefore, they are very accurate indicators of health of the sea

The SAM project

Monitoring in Catalonia is carried out in 6 stations that include the entire Catalan coast, from Cap de Creus to the Ebro Delta.

The “official” date of the censuses is the first Saturday of each month , that is, 12 censuses a year, to standardize the census with other monitoring of seabirds of higher geographical contexts. However, complementary censuses can also be taken any day , at any of the six census points, of at least one hour and only whole hours, using the same methodology. These supplementary censuses are very beneficial in increasing the volume of data and making the analyzes more robust. It is necessary, however, that the data be computerized in Trektellen , which is the data portal that will be used .

Censuses last two hours, divided into 15-minute chunks, during which all species are counted and scored according to whether they fly north, south, or are local with little movement.
The census is carried out by sweeping the sea with a telescope for long distances, and with binoculars for short distances. Observers should note all groups of individuals they are able to see (either a large group or a solitary individual), as well as the direction of their movement (north, south or local behavior). Additionally, if possible, the age of the individuals can also be entered.

All data is entered into the Trektellen database and can be freely consulted there.
Do you want to collaborate with the project? Email us at and become an Alive volunteer! or inquire at the ICO .

The 6 seabird monitoring stations in Catalonia