Saturday 24 February 2024
 2.4°C   SW Light Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Nature / Concern for wild bird populations as more bonxies and gannets are sent for bird flu testing

CONCERNS are growing that Shetland’s famous wild bird populations could be hit hard by an outbreak of avian flu this summer as more dead animals are sent south for testing.

Corpses of five great skuas (bonxies) and three gannets, collected from different sites across Shetland, will be on the boat tonight (Tuesday) on their way to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey.

Last week, the Scottish Government confirmed to Shetland News that four eider ducks collected on 20 April had tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1.

More samples of dead birds, from Fair Isle, are likely to be sent for analysis next week.

Meanwhile, results from dead bonxies collected from Noness and other sites in the southend of Shetland, are expected to be available next week.

The risk from avian flu to humans is considered to be low, but people are advised not to touch or handle any dead or sick birds.

Dr Glen Tyler, a marine ornithology adviser with government agency NatureScot, said reports of dead birds are coming in from most parts of Shetland.

Mainly affected are migratory species such as bonxies and gannets, but also dunters (eider ducks) who spend the winter in large flocks in some of Shetland more sheltered voes.

Distressing footage of dead and suffering bonxies filmed in the South Mainland and Fair Isle were posted on social media earlier this month.

Dr Tyler said these latest cases have not been confirmed as avian flu yet but all the “symptoms look similar”.

It comes as the Scottish Government has somewhat eased restrictions on poultry owners who had been required to keep their animals indoors during the winter.

Dr Tyler said he was not in a position to pre-empt what future government advice on keeping poultry would be but added that it was “unlikely” gannets and bonxies would mix with domestic birds.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


However, he voiced concern for the impact a large outbreak of avian flu could have particularly on bonxies, a rare species, although that might not be the impression when living in Shetland.

He said if avian flu is confirmed in bonxies then it is likely to have an impact on populations as 60 per cent of all great skuas are in Scotland, and half of that are in Shetland.

Avian flu is a notifiable animal disease. Further info on how to report it can be found here.

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 600 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.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.