SOME seabird species have returned to Scotland in decrease numbers this breeding season following final yr’s avian flu outbreak.
Early monitoring of seabird colonies recommend that some species have returned in considerably decrease numbers than in earlier years, with nice skuas being particularly laborious hit.
Preliminary observations by NatureScot from among the principal websites in Shetland recommend important breeding inhabitants declines for excellent skua – a species of which Scotland helps 60% of the world’s breeding inhabitants.
It’s estimated that as much as 90% of the inhabitants on the northern headland of Hermaness might have been misplaced.
In consequence, a brief suspension of ringing and analysis actions has been put in place for excellent skua to minimise pointless disturbance or stress to those weak populations.
There are additionally considerations about uncommon behaviour in terns, with fewer birds than regular returning to websites throughout Scotland, and their return coming later than anticipated.
On the Isle of Noss, tern nesting was late however some eggs have now finally been laid.
Nonetheless, on the Isle of Might there was no nesting but this yr, and on Rum the terns have abandoned with out laying any eggs.
Alastair MacGugan, a NatureScot Wildlife Supervisor, stated: “It’s too quickly to attract agency conclusions in regards to the impression of final yr’s horrible losses, however the low numbers of nice skua and terns returning to our shores is definitely regarding and one thing we’re holding a really shut watch on.
“The excellent news is that, in Scotland a minimum of, we’re not seeing the massive numbers of useless birds round breeding websites that we did final yr.
“This will likely imply that the remaining birds have gained some stage of immunity to the virus.
“If that’s the case, then there may be trigger for optimism as populations might start to slowly change the losses that occurred final yr.”
To date this breeding season, the virus has largely impacted additional south, devastating breeding colonies of black-headed gulls and terns, with 1000’s of adults and chicks dying at colonies throughout England, Wales and Northern Eire.
It’s unclear why this outbreak in gulls doesn’t seem like affecting colonies in Scotland.
NatureScot has arrange a monitoring programme to maintain watch over Scotland’s gull breeding colonies for indicators of the illness.
Focused surveys of breeding seabird populations are presently underway, and can assist to raised perceive the extent of the impression.