RSPB press launch – Hen Flu – Mark Avery

Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii, Rockabill Island, Eire.  Picture: Brian Burke (

New examine exhibits function of hen flu in widespread declines of UK seabirds

  • A brand new report by the RSPB has for the primary time, quantified the consequences of current Extremely Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreaks on the populations of the UK’s seabirds.
  • Of the 13 species included within the examine, 9 confirmed declines, three of that are attributable to HPAI, with an extra two being almost certainly attributable to the illness. The function of the illness in different declines is much less clear and requires additional examine.
  • Current surveys present the UK’s seabirds are in dire hassle, going through threats together with unsustainable fishing practices, predation by invasive non-native mammals, offshore wind improvement, local weather change and now hen flu.

A brand new report has for the primary time proven the impacts of current Extremely Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI or hen flu) outbreaks on populations of the UK’s seabirds. Because of the tens of 1000’s of useless birds seen in 2021 and 2022, HPAI has turn out to be one of many greatest fast conservation threats confronted by a number of seabirds, and up to date inhabitants estimates are an pressing precedence.

Nice Skua Stercorarius skua.  Picture: Andy Hay (

The examine revealed a extremely regarding image of widespread and intensive declines, with 9 of the 13 species included within the report reducing in numbers by over 10% since earlier surveys made between 2015 and 2021. For Gannet, Nice Skua and Roseate Tern these declines are largely attributable to HPAI and for Sandwich and Widespread Terns, HPAI is the possible trigger. For the remaining species (Arctic Skua, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Nice Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Arctic Tern and Guillemot), additional work is required to raised perceive the possible contribution of HPAI to the declines.

The undertaking was led by the RSPB in collaboration with the British Belief for Ornithology, the Statutory Nature Conservation Our bodies, and different conservation organisations.

In 2022, the present H5N1 pressure of HPAI turned widespread in UK wild hen populations, significantly in seabirds and waterfowl, after being initially recorded in Nice Skuas in the summertime of 2021. The variety of reported hen deaths in 2022, confirmed that HPAI had turn out to be one of many greatest fast conservation threats confronted by a lot of our seabird species, together with some, corresponding to Nice Skua, for which the UK is liable for a excessive proportion of the worldwide inhabitants.

Late final yr, Seabirds Rely (2015-2021) was revealed. That is the latest census of breeding seabird populations throughout Britain, Eire, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It painted a really grim image for our seabirds, with virtually 62% of seabird species in decline throughout the UK and declines throughout 70% of species in Scotland, the UK’s seabird stronghold. These declines are the results of the a number of threats seabirds are at the moment going through, together with unsustainable fishing practices, predation by invasive non-native mammals, offshore wind improvement and local weather change. Nonetheless, the Seabirds Rely census was accomplished earlier than the HPAI outbreak and so acquiring up to date inhabitants estimates to assist assess the impacts of the illness subsequently turned a prime monitoring precedence for seabird conservation. This knowledge can also be precious for presidency and all these working and planning in marine improvement.

From the brand new surveys carried out throughout the 2023 breeding season at chosen websites the brand new examine recorded devasting losses in Gannets, Nice Skuas and Roseate Terns which could be largely attributed to HPAI. All three species had beforehand been growing within the UK previous to the HPAI outbreak (will increase of 39%, 14%, 114% respectively for the reason that starting of the century). The brand new survey outcomes present that these species skilled declines of 25%, 76%, and 21% respectively, throughout 75%, 81%, and 98% of their UK inhabitants inside a interval of simply 2-9 years. Equally, populations of Sandwich Tern and Widespread Tern had beforehand been steady, so the 35% and 42% declines discovered within the new examine additionally point out these are more likely to be largely pushed by HPAI.

The outbreak continues to have an effect on seabird populations and important additional mortalities had been recorded in 2023 for species corresponding to Kittiwakes and Guillemots after knowledge assortment for this report was accomplished.

The RSPB’s Director of Conservation, Katie-jo Luxton, mentioned “With its rugged shoreline and myriad of small offshore islands, the UK is globally vital for seabirds. Nonetheless, for many years we’ve not sorted these pure treasures and our seabird populations have dramatically declined due to our actions; the introduction of invasive predators to islands that destroy nests and chicks, to the growing results of local weather change which are impacting the provision of their meals. This new examine exhibits that hen flu could be added to the lengthy listing of issues which are devastating our seabirds.

We all know that conservation efforts and good insurance policies such because the current sandeel announcement, do work and assist enhance the resilience of our seabirds to raised climate no matter new storm is on the horizon. However we’d like our governments to implement these efforts and plan for a future the place our seabirds are a part of a thriving marine atmosphere.

Gannet. Picture:  Ben Andrew (



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