NRBO was established in 1987 to study and record the migrant birds that pass through Orkney's most northerly island each year.

The number and variety of birds that arrive here on migration in Spring and Autumn can be spectacular, and North Ronaldsay is well-known as one of the best birdwatching sites in the country. The observatory also provides a variety of comfortable accommodation, including guest house, hostel and camping area, and a shop with groceries and other goods for visitors to the island.