Readers cannot fail to notice the annual carnage of dead birds along Shetland’s faster roads in spring and summer.
Great Black-backed Gulls (swaabies) feeding on squashed rabbits are one of the most prominent victims, but common gulls (peerie maas) and black-headed gulls (black-keppit maas) often feed on insects along the roadside vegetation, and can inadvertently slip side-ways into the path of an on-coming vehicle.
The problem gets worse as summer progresses, since newly fledged juvenile gulls are particularly slow to respond to speeding traffic. Oystercatchers (shalders) also have an unfortunate habit of feeding along verges and are frequent road casualties.
Your driving licence requires you to be aware of potential hazards ahead. Hitting a swaabie at 60-80 mph will probably damage your vehicle, and if it comes through your windscreen (as has happened) can cause a serious accident at any speed. Nobody knows how much these road casualties affect bird populations, but it is certainly sad to see adult peerie maas killed so often near their breeding colonies.
So if you see a bird on the road ahead, whether a shalder pecking along the verge or a swaabie tugging at the remains of a rabbit, just slow down a bit and let be.
RSPB Shetland Manager
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