Guillemots washed up dead on east coast - but is it bird flu?

Guillemots washed up dead on east coast – but is it bird flu?

Ms Morton said, “There are theories about what’s going on, one is bird flu, another is a lack of sand eels in their diet. But either way it sounds like a big tragedy, seeing so many dead birds. I’ve never seen anything like this in the 30 years I’ve lived here.”

Many users of the beach, East Lothian and Fife have commented on the dead birds on social media, on the Facebook group Lothian Birdwatch a long group of comments describing the dead birds, many of which were guillemots and razorbills.

A visitor to Seacliff beach said he was shocked to find ten birds washed ashore, which he identified as guillemots. Others reported illness and death in Edinburgh’s Newhaven, Aberlady, Musselburgh, Longniddry, Dunbar and Fife.

One seafarer said: “On the Fife beach, I estimated between 25 and 30 Guillemot. From the young to the old. Some rot more than others. I have reported this to both Scottish and UK Government departments. ”

Herald: Dead guillemot washed up on Portobello Beach

Many suspect bird flu. However, according to Dr Francis Daunt, a seabird scientist at the Center for Ecology and Hydrology, tests have been carried out on some of the birds which show that this is not the case.

“We are following the event,” he said, “and some important news, the latest news is that many birds have come back free of avian flu, suggesting that environmental conditions may be the cause.”

Dr Daunt said: “That doesn’t mean there isn’t bird flu, but it’s important because it could have been thought to be bird flu. But we suspected that conditions were a factor, and the results support that. ”

The current plight of guillemots is reminiscent of a similar “great auk wreck” that occurred in 2021, involving more than a thousand auk birds.

The conclusion, after investigation, was that hunger was the main factor. The birds were thin. Many weighed half their body weight at just over a kilogram. Researchers from the Institute of Ecology and Hydrology later confirmed that the birds had indeed starved to death.

Another theory was that the birds may have been poisoned by toxins from an algal bloom.

READ MORE: Avian flu ‘Wake-up’ call as fears rise for Scotland’s seabirds

But one of the problems in working with probability is that these events can be many things, and it is difficult to give one reason.

When earlier this year there was concern about the small number of guillemot deaths in Angelsey, one of the big questions was whether the unusually high temperatures in the June marine heatwave could be the cause of the deaths.

READ MORE: Guillemots. The mystery of 1000 dead Scottish seabirds

READ MORE: Scotland’s sea temperatures explained: from data to jellyfish

Dr Daunt said at the time: “When we see a death like this, there can be no other explanation. It is possible that two things are happening at the same time. And when wild birds, or any wild species are facing multiple threats they can make things worse than adding the two together. ”

“So maybe if there’s an ocean heatwave and the quality of your food goes down, then your condition goes down and you’re more vulnerable to avian flu. And, similarly, if you have an illness and maybe ‘ If you recover from it, you may not return to your peak and you may be vulnerable of declining food quality due to ocean temperatures.”

In Scotland this summer, tests confirmed Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Sandwich tern, common tern, kittiwake, herring gull, black-headed gull and guillemot.

The public who have found dead or sick birds are advised not to touch them and visitors to coastal areas are advised to keep their dogs on a lead to avoid picking up dead birds. Dead wild birds should be reported on’s ‘Report dead wild birds’ page, or by calling the GB helpline: 03459 33 55 77.

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