Published On: Tue, Feb 13th, 2024
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Bird flu causing widespread declines of UK seabirds, RSPB charity warns | Nature | News

The decline of up to seven UK bird species could have been caused by avian flu, the RSPB has warned.

Of the 13 species included in charity’s study, nine showed declines – three of which are attributable to bird flu

A further two were described as being “most likely attributable” to the disease.

The role of the disease in other declines is less clear and requires further study, the organisation said.

Katie-jo Luxton, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation, said “With its rugged coastline and myriad of small offshore islands, the UK is globally important for seabirds. 

“However, for decades we have not looked after these natural treasures and our seabird populations have dramatically declined because of our actions; the introduction of invasive predators to islands that destroy nests and chicks, to the increasing effects of climate change that are impacting the availability of their food. 

“This new study shows that bird flu can be added to the long list of things that are devastating our seabirds.”

Nine of the 13 species included in the report decreased in numbers by over 10 per cent since previous surveys made between 2015 and 2021.

For Gannet, Great Skua and Roseate Tern these declines are largely attributable to bird flu and for Sandwich and Common Terns, the disease is the likely cause.

The avian flu outbreak in wild birds in the UK began in 2021 and has led to the death of tens of thousands 

Ms Luxton said: “We know that conservation efforts and smart policies such as the recent sandeel announcement, do work and help increase the resilience of our seabirds to better weather whatever new storm is on the horizon. 

“But we need our governments to implement these efforts and plan for a future where our seabirds are part of a thriving marine environment.”

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