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Royal Naval Birdwatching Society

Established in 1946, The Royal Naval Birdwatching Society fosters knowledge, understanding and appreciation of seabirds through a network of members  and the conduct of scientific survey and database management.  The society also supports conservation and research initiatives in this field.  We are open to all who have a genuine interest in seabirds and landbirds at sea.

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Who We Are

We are a society of a hundred or so serving and ex-serving members of the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy and civilians who have an interest in seabirds and a desire to improve our understanding and appreciation of them.  We do this through targeted fieldwork, observations at sea and support to relevant research programmes.  By maintaining a database of over 70 years of observations at sea, we have built a useful tool for others to use in their studies, particularly in the field of climate change.

The RNBWS is a registered charity.

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A bit of History

How it all started

At 74 years old, the Royal Naval Birdwatching Society (RNBWS) is one of the world’s oldest ornithological societies.  It was launched by Admiralty Fleet Order in 1946 after application by a group of enthusiasts, including Lieutenant Commander Peter Scott and since then has had members worldwide amongst naval personnel, merchant mariners and interested civilians.  Today it continues to pursue its original aims of raising awareness, supporting scientific research and the conservation of seabirds.

Home: What We Do

What we do

Science, Conservation, Community

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From the very beginning, the Society has recorded birds at sea and managed the collation and analysis of these records.  The resultant database now covers tens of thousands of records, from 70 years and across the globe.  As most sightings are from warships, which follow very different routes to merchant traffic, these records are of particular value.  The Society now makes this database free of charge to researchers.



The RNBWS has supported many conservation projects both through the provision of funding and the supply of volunteer manpower.  Recent efforts include support to the eradication of rats from Ascension Island, the relocation of Petrels and Albatrosses in Islands around New Zealand and a long-term commitment to help the conservation effort for Zino’s Petrel in Madeira.  Closer to home we have also provided volunteers to the UK’s JNCC Breeding Seabird Survey.



Much of our activity is through field trips for members and visitors.  Many of these are routine with regular day trips to UK places of interest and weekends away at coastal bird observatories.  Members also travel further afield, typically in collaboration with other organisations in support of conservation efforts.  Recent years have seen members deployed to Shetland, Madeira, Ascension Island, Diego Garcia and New Zealand amongst others.


Sea Swallow

A further aim is to foster interest and understanding of seabirds amongst naval people.  We do this by outreach communications to HM Ships and the dissemination of our journal Sea Swallow.  This is a high-quality journal, beautifully produced by Harry Scott at Pica Design, of which the Society is proud. 
All previous issues of Sea Swallow, back to 1947, and an index, are available below.

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Contact Us

Get in touch with the RNBWS

 to learn more.

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Membership Forms

To download our membership forms, please click the link below

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