Avian influenza mortality rises in threatened gull and tern colonies | BTO


In Could, we reported the devastating influence of avian influenza or ‘hen flu’ in breeding Black-headed Gull colonies close to Coventry, Leicester and Leeds. Mortalities have greater than doubled for this species within the final month, and in complete, it’s estimated that not less than 10,000 Black-headed Gulls have died because the finish of March. 

Black-headed Gulls. Edmund Fellowes / BTO

Though solely a comparatively small proportion of useless birds is examined for avian influenza, present sampling means that very massive numbers of Black-headed Gulls are contaminated. 

Instances proceed to unfold, with infections rising in Northern Eire in addition to extra extensively throughout England. In Belfast Harbour, the RSPB Home windows on Wildlife reserve suspects not less than 200 Black-headed Gulls have died on the location because of avian influenza within the final two weeks alone.

The illness can also be crossing into different colonial species resembling Frequent Terns, which frequently breed in shut proximity to Black-headed Gulls. Sadly, there have now been experiences of this species being affected by avian influenza at websites from Norfolk to County Antrim.

The unfold of avian influenza via inland colonies of Black-headed Gulls and Frequent Terns represents the subsequent section of the battle in opposition to this virus that devastated so lots of our coastal and offshore seabird colonies final yr.

Prof. James Pearce-Higgins, BTO Director of Science 

40% of the 800 breeding Frequent Terns at Shotton Steelworks in North Wales are thought to have died from avian influenza, together with half of the 400 that breed at close by Seaforth Nature Reserve. The numbers are nonetheless low compared to these of suspected avian influenza mortality in Black-headed Gulls, however there may be potential for extreme losses for Frequent Terns within the close to future.

Each Black-headed Gulls and Frequent Terns are included on the Amber Record of Birds of Conservation Concern, because of inhabitants declines and vary contractions. The long-term influence of avian influenza on these threatened populations won’t be identified for a while but. 

How one can assist

  • Don’t contact useless or sick birds

  • Preserve canines on results in stop them from discovering and choosing up useless birds

  • Clear hen feeders and hen baths repeatedly

Study extra about avian influenza

Extra info on the present outbreak, how BTO is responding, and what you are able to do to assist, might be discovered on our devoted Avian Influenza web page.

Study extra about avian influenza

We’re solely in a position to observe the unfold of avian influenza with the assistance of birdwatchers who submit their sightings, supporting the efforts of website managers and reserve wardens. Prof. James Pearce-Higgins, BTO Director of Science 

Report useless and sick birds 

  • File within the BirdTrack app. This enables researchers to comply with the illness’s geographical unfold and quickly assess potential impacts on populations.

  • Report back to Defra (England, Wales and Scotland) or DAERA (Northern Eire), in order that if wanted, useless birds might be collected for testing.

Black-headed Gull. Edmund Fellowes / BTO

Monitor your native Black-headed Gull colony

There are a number of vacant websites for monitoring Black-headed Gulls as a part of the Seabird Monitoring Programme

Black-headed Gulls breeding at upland reservoirs look like badly affected in the intervening time, so we urge birdwatchers to take a look at breeding websites they could know of and report any deaths.
Daybreak Balmer, BTO Head of Surveys


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