You may well have seen reports recently of seabirds – often guillemots and razorbills – washing up dead or very weak and thin, feeding far closer to shore than usual, or moving up rivers along the east coast of Scotland and England.
This is an unusual and worrying series of events. Extreme weather, pollution, disease and toxins can all kill seabirds. If prey fish are scarce, seabirds can be weakened through starvation. We don’t know the exact cause here, but scientists are working hard to find out more. A number of birds have been tested for Avian Influenza and all returned negative results.
We do know climate change is already affecting marine food chains, driving prey fish numbers down, creating more extreme weather events, and generating more blooms of toxic algae in our seas. The Scottish Seabird Indicator, which tracks 11 seabird species, shows a concerning overall decline of 49% since 1986, so this new additional problem comes on top of an already serious situation for our internationally important seabirds.
The world is in a nature and climate emergency and Scotland is part of it, with humans and wildlife already experiencing the impacts. We need urgent action from governments to help revive our world.
Guillemots are among the birds to have been affected. Photo credit: Paul Turner
If you find a sick or injured seabird – or any wildlife – in Scotland please contact the SSPCA on their dedicated animal helpline 03000 999 999. In England, you can call the RSPCA on 0300 123 4999.
If you find a dead seabird please do not handle it. If you want to help, you can contact the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology using Twitter by tweeting the date, place, species, age and totals of the bird(s) found and tagging the Centre’s seabird account @UKCEHseabirds. A guide on determining the age of guillemots can be found here.
If the dead birds are ringed and you can see the details without touching them you can report this to the BTO via their website here.
RSPB Scotland will be discussing this issue in the next edition of our podcast which will be out next week. Click here to subscribe and be notified when it goes live.
Hi Phoebe, thanks for your message. We've updated the blog with the number for the RSPCA in England - 0300 123 4999
Hi Caroline, thanks for your message. We've updated the blog with the number for the RSPCA in England - 0300 123 4999.
We are seeing rafts of guillemots coming up the Tay estuary, into Tayport harbour and as far up as the Tay Road Bridge. This is unprecedented. We've spotted at least three dead guillemots over the past few months on the beach just east of Tayport harbour.
I was staying in St Andrews over the past 2 weeks. The number of dead seabirds was staggering. In 1 day I counted 86 dead guillemots and 2 dead gannets as well as 2 dead seals between the town and the point. I wasn’t particularly looking for them either. It’s really very worrying.
Not seen many around Stonehaven. Are we sure it's not the Russian vacuum ships sucking up all the sand eels again. I remember around the mid 90s the two bags around Dunnottar , (just south of Stonehaven) the shoreline was absolutely covered in dead gullimots. At least a couple of thousand,no way could I count them. This area is just north of Crawton the RSPB bird sanctuary.
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