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Seabirds struggle

Guillimots at Sumburgh Head in June this year - Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNews

THE COLDEST spring in more than 50 years has taken a toll on Scotland’s seabirds, according to RSPB Scotland.

The wildlife charity said that adult birds have arrived late for the breeding season and in poor condition.

Colony counts on RSPB Scotland reserves across the country from Orkney and Shetland in the north to the Firth of Clyde reveal that species like kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills are showing some of the steepest declines.

Seabird counts on some sites around Orkney indicate an 87 per cent reduction in the number of kittiwakes compared with counts conducted on the same sites as part of the last seabird census in 2000. 

Razorbills are down 57 per cent from a total of 2,228 in 2000 to just 966 in 2013 and guillemots have declined by 46 percent during the same period.

RSPB area manager for Shetland Pete Ellis said local figures were similarly depressing.

“It looks pretty bad, there seem to be hardly any sandeels around, the food supply is the main problem,” he said.

Allan Whyte, RSPB Scotland marine policy officer, added: “There is every sign that this will be another difficult year for some of our most recognisable seabirds including guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes.

“Difficult weather conditions compound the problem of long-term declines caused by food shortages, climate change and poor management of human activities in the marine environment.

“These results should send a clear message to the Scottish Government that they must designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for seabirds, and the sandeels they feed on, to give them a fighting chance.”