Scottish seabirds suffer huge losses


Seabirds in Scotland suffered huge losses in 2023 due to bird flu, NatureScot has said.

According to the agency, there were nearly 10,000 reports of dead or sick birds between 3 April and 1 October, most of which came along the east coast. While there have been tentative signs of resistance against the virus, some colonies suffered grim summers, including Forvie NNR in Aberdeenshire which lost 40% of this year's tern chicks.

Guillemot suffered badly from bird flu in Scotland in 2023 (NatureScot).

NatureScot said that a degree of natural mortality is normal among tern chicks, but the scale and sudden nature of avian flu-related deaths this past summer has been unusual. And when combined with the number of adult deaths reported, the losses are extremely concerning for the recovery of populations.

Following a quiet start to spring this year, a sudden increase in mortalities began in June and reached a peak in mid-July when around 2,300 sick and dead birds were reported to NatureScot in a two-week period. The highest number of reported mortalities were among Guillemots, with 3,519 deaths reported over the summer.

Eileen Stuart, NatureScot's deputy director of nature and climate change, said: "With very few Great Skua and Northern Gannet deaths this summer, we are hopeful that some wild birds are building immunity. But other species, such as Kittiwakes and terns that were impacted last year, have still been greatly affected this year."