Search for beach birds

Scotland has many internationally important colonies of sea and shorebirds. On estuary mudflats you may find oystercatchers or curlews searching for food in the mud. In the summertime, our cliffs are home to lots of seabirds, from guillemots to gannets to puffins. For example, we can spot 37 seabird species around Scotland’s coast, which make up more than 5 million birds! Some species can be seen throughout the year, but the best time of year for spotting them is in the spring and summer. This is because many of them migrate to Scotland to breed.

Click on the seabird species below to find out more about them…


Fulmar (c) Derek Moore
Great Skua (c) Amy Lewis


Guillemot (c) Mike Snelle


Puffin (c) Lynne Newton


Birdwatching can be a great mindfulness activity, as well as a way to start learning about the fascinating lives of birds. As you watch them, can you observe different behaviours? Such as searching for prey, watching out for predators, or socialising…

Download our seabird spotter sheet below and head to the coast!


What you will need:

  • Printed activity sheet
  • Pen/pencil
  • Clipboard (optional)
  • Binoculars (optional – why not make your own binoculars using our downloadable guide below)

How to spot beach birds:


  1. Head to the coast with your printed spotter sheet and see what birds you can find! If you can’t head outside, you could play some video footage instead.
  2. The key to this is to be as stealthy and quiet as you can – you don’t want to scare the birds away! If using binoculars, remind young people to stop walking before using them to avoid any falls. What types of birds can you see? If you spot one from the sheet, tick it off! If you don’t know what it is, note down some features, or take a photo, so that you can try to identify it later.
  3. You could add another learning element by creating a survey. Using spare paper, create a table containing the bird names on your spotter sheet and tally any you find.
  4. You could also add a citizen science element. Seek by iNaturalist is an identification app, great for using with young people. All you need is a smartphone – download the app, take a photo of your bird and it will identify it for you – plus the data gets recorded so it is great for data scientists!
  5. After your walk, start a discussion  – what was the most common bird spotted? Are there some you didn’t see? Why do you think that is – perhaps not the right time of year, bad weather, or not the right location?

Time to complete

Hour or more

Suitable for age

Suitable location

Curriculum linked

Health and Wellbeing (Social, Physical, Physical activity and sport)

Science (Planet Earth)

Social Studies (People, place and environment)


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