Bass Rock gannet colony recovering from bird flu


Bass Rock's population of Northern Gannets – the largest colony in the world – is showing signs of recovery after it was devastated by bird flu last year.

Thousands of birds died in 2022 at the famous site off the Lothian coast after the virus spread though the colony during the breeding season. However, there are already signs of a much-improved breeding season this year.

Bass Rock is home to the world's largest colony of Northern Gannets (Mike McKenzie).

A recent study found the adult birds' survival between 2021 and 2022 was 42% lower than the preceding 10-year average because of avian flu.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh are carrying out a population estimate using drones and artificial intelligence to count numbers – and staff at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick are optimistic that when the current survey is complete, numbers will have recovered substantially.

Maggie Sheddan, a volunteer at the centre for more than 20 years, said that in areas where there were pockets of just two or three birds last year, there were now "probably 100 to 200".

"What we are seeing now is what looks like a healthy colony. It will be really fascinating to see how it settles and pans out, " she said.