ARCTIC skuas could be lost as a breeding bird in the north of Scotland should the species’ dramatic decline continue, the RSPB has warned.
A study by the bird charity’s centre for conservation science has found that a lack of food, particularly sand eels, was the main cause behind an 81 per cent population decline since 1992.
Senior conservation scientist with the RSPB Scotland, Dr Allan Perkins, said the whole food chain is impacted by the decline of sand eel numbers.
“If these sharp declines continue, it’s possible that Arctic skuas will be lost as a breeding species in Scotland,” he said.
Arctic skuas – or Skootie aalin in local dialect – have their stronghold in Orkney and Shetland.
They are medium-sized seabirds with pointed falcon-like wings and long pointed tail feathers, and are known as the pirates of the seabird world, taking advantage of their diving skills to steal food from other seabirds.
In 1992, the 33 colonies included in the study held 1,061 breeding pairs of Arctic skuas, but by 2015 this number had dropped to just 200.
If such declines are replicated in the other Arctic skua breeding colonies it could mean as few as 550 pairs are left in Scotland, the RSPB said.
Become a supporter of Shetland News
Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.
Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.
Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has over 530 supporters who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.
Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -
- Bring you the headlines as they happen;
- Stay editorially independent;
- Give a voice to the community;
- Grow site traffic further;
- Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.
If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.
Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.Support Shetland News