Avian flu having 'devastating' impact on seabirds in Cornwall

  • In Science
  • 2022-09-26 11:47:36Z
  • By BBC
Dead bird on Isles of Scilly
Dead bird on Isles of Scilly  

The impact of avian flu on breeding seabirds is "devastating", Cornwall Wildlife Trust has said.

Cornwall Council has collected 394 dead birds since protection zones were introduced in August.

There are currently 3km protection zones in place around premises in Newlyn, Torpoint and Constantine.

Abby Crosby, from Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: "This summer we have seen an unprecedented number of dead seabirds washing in."

She told BBC Radio Cornwall "to see it in such levels is quite shocking".

"We have particularly seen it in gannets which are such beautiful seabirds and quite iconic in this county," Ms Crosby said.

"They are dispersing after breeding and heading out into the Atlantic, dying of the virus, and then washing into our coastline.

"The impact this has had on breeding seabirds, particularly gannets, is devastating".

Bird hospital
Bird hospital  

Martin Alvey, the Cornwall councillor in charge of the environment and public protection, said they were generally receiving reports of up to 15 dead birds each day on council beaches and property.

He told BBC Radio Cornwall: "Gannets are birds that we don't see on the shore - they live at sea. They are dying and being washed ashore so these beautiful birds are being found by people but they are also potentially affecting other wild birds where for instance the gulls are feeding on a dead carcass.

"So we have seen it coming into other bird species."

People are being asked to continue reporting any dead, sick or injured birds they come across and not to touch or move them.

The Mousehole Wild Bird Hospital has been closed since 20 August because of bird flu and the birds that were in its care have been culled.

Jeremy Whitaker, from the hospital, told BBC Radio Cornwall they were "devastated".

"When you are working in conservation, to see 200 birds you have been caring for culled is pretty awful and has hit the staff quite hard."

Staff have been offered counselling and the facility will remain closed over the winter.

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