Starving seabirds in British Isles – 09/18/2006

  • November 25, 2013 at 3:09 am #1288

    Starving seabirds hit by climate change?
    Posted: 18 Sep 2006

    Reports of hundreds of dead or starving young seabirds around
    Scotland – including some many miles from the coast – and Northern
    Ireland are leading to speculation among experts that these incidents
    may be linked to climate change.

    Staff from several organisations, including the RSPB, are assessing
    the extent of the situation. Most of the casualties are guillemots –
    a type of seabird. Post mortems on the birds shown that many of the
    birds are underweight and have empty stomachs, suggesting they are
    suffering from a chronic shortage of food. Sandeels are a principal
    prey for guillemots and many other seabirds.

    Dr Euan Dunn, head of marine policy for the RSPB, said: “Able to dive
    300 feet for fish prey, guillemots are massively buffered against
    scarcity, so evidence of starvation signals a desperate lack of food.
    Food shortage has reared its ugly head in a number of guillemot
    colonies in recent years, but the breadth and scale of these reports
    of starving birds is more troubling.”

    Counts of seabird colonies around Scotland and in Northern Ireland
    have revealed that they have had another disastrous year with food
    shortages leading to a low recruitment of young birds.

    Commenting on the potential impacts of climate change affecting UK
    seabirds, the RSPB’s Conservation Director, Dr Mark Avery, said: “The
    seas surrounding the British Isles are among the most productive in
    the world and, despite decades of overfishing, they still support
    internationally important seabird colonies. But, seabirds are facing
    key threats as life-giving cold-water-loving plankton shift, taking
    the foundation of the foodchain with them. Distressing images of
    seabirds failing to find enough sandeels to feed their chicks is an
    early warning sign of worse to come.”

    So far there have been reports of nearly 100 dead or dying guillemots
    in Northern Ireland, principally washed up on the shores of South
    Down, and around 120 guillemots in the Loch Fyne area of western
    Scotland. Several guillemots have also been reported from highly
    unusual inland locations, including the centre of Glasgow,
    Crianlarich and Loch Awe. Some birds have been reported swimming up
    small burns, presumably in a desperate attempt to find food.

    Source: RSPB. See:

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