Nature / Shetland bird populations hit badly after last year’s avian flu

SEABIRDS are returning in lower numbers across Scotland this year after the avian flu outbreak in 2022, according to monitoring by NatureScot.

Great skuas, or bonxies, in Shetland have been particularly affected – estimations say up to 90 per cent of the Hermaness population has been lost.

Bonxie ringing and research activities have therefore been suspended to decrease disturbance and stress on the species.

Fewer terns than usual are returning to Scotland as well, including the population on Noss Nature Reserve.

Noss warden returns to isles 26 years later: ‘It feels like home’

Tern nesting was later than expected in Noss this year, but NatureScot reports that some eggs have been laid now.

More surveys are underway to further understand the impact of the disease.

However, Scotland is not yet seeing the high numbers of dead birds that England currently is due to another bird flu outbreak.

Alastair MacGugan, NatureScot wildlife manager, said: “It is too soon to draw firm conclusions about the impact of last year’s terrible losses, but the low numbers of great skua and terns returning to our shores is certainly concerning and something we are keeping a very close watch on.


“The good news is that, in Scotland at least, we are not seeing the large numbers of dead birds around breeding sites that we did last year.

“This may mean that the remaining birds have gained some level of immunity to the virus. If so, then there is cause for optimism as populations may begin to slowly replace the losses that occurred last year.”

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.