Fewer bird flu deaths in Farne Islands in 2023


The number of birds that succumbed to bird flu in the Farne Islands has dropped by almost half this year.

Last year across the islands off the Northumberland coast, the disease accounted for the death of more than 6,000 birds. This year the number of dead birds found on the Farne Islands is 3,647 – in part due to the regular pick-ups of dead birds by the ranger team in efforts to stop the spread of the disease.

Breeding Guillemots on the Farne Islands (Harriet Day).

The totals are still grim, but there can be some positivity taken from the reduced number of deaths. Kittiwakes were the hardest hit in the Farnes this year, with nearly 1,000 individuals collected.

Harriet Reid, a ranger in the Farne Islands, said: "This year we were anxious to see whether we would once again witness the tragic impact of the disease on the returning seabirds after the disease hit us hard last year.

"As soon as we became aware of the presence of avian flu within the bird population, we did everything possible to restrict the spread of the disease and closed the island to visitors. This meant less disturbance for the vulnerable colonies, and we took the decision to pick up dead birds to try and counter the spread of the disease.

"Removing the seabirds as soon as we find them, does seem to have made a difference but we need to rapidly understand what more we can do to protect these precious seabirds. Currently there is little solid guidance and we're fighting against time to prevent a long-term impact on some populations, particularly those species which are already struggling due to other pressures such as climate change."