Guillemot concerns

Adult Guillemot with chick in May waters in July
Thousands breed on the Isle of May – we have over 16,000 pairs

Thursday 15th September comments: What is going on? Over the last 2-3 weeks we’ve had reports of large flocks of Guillemots feeding close inshore to the mainland down the east coast of the U.K. especially between Aberdeen and Northumberland. What is more worrying is that members of the public have been reporting dead or dying birds being washed up on beaches or being found in unusual circumstances, inland or feeding in shallow waters around peoples legs, so what is going on?

During the winter months large wrecks of seabirds can occur but this is linked to winter storms, heavy seas and low temperatures when food can be difficult to source. However in August-September we would expect food availability to be very good as the North Sea witnesses influxes of migratory fish such as Mackerel and Herring which are bolstered by good quantities of Sand-eels at this time of year.

However it’s evident that reports suggest birds are starving as birds have been found at half their normal body weight. So how and why are they starving? The quest is now to find out the answers as if it is starvation event is it also linked to disease or toxins or even bird flu which has been reported in Great Skuas in northern Scotland this summer or is it something more simple and that food availability is low for a number of reasons.

Dr. Francis Daunt of UKCEH has been leading the investigations and corpses have been sent off to be analysed, so hopefully we’ll have some answers to this concerning development. If you do find any dead or dying birds on the tideline we advise you not handle birds. Hopefully we’ll have some answers soon. It’s tough times for seabirds…

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