Bad time for seabird populations

ANALYSIS of this year’s seabird breeding data on RSPB’s coastal reserves shows that kittiwakes, Arctic terns and Arctic skuas have had a terrible season, with virtually no chicks reared to fledging in the far north of the UK. Changes in food supply, which may be linked to climate change, could threaten the future of these species in the UK.

Earlier this year the RSPB issued a grave prognosis for the breeding season, with many of the country’s internationally important colonies left with nests abandoned and empty cliffs which should have been teeming with tens of thousands of seabirds at the time.

The Arctic skua, a bird on the southern edge of its world range in Scotland, is in a bad way. RSPB reserves on Shetland and Orkney have seen a 30 per cent decline in nesting pairs in just one year to 65 pairs. Crucially though, these pairs produced a dismal three chicks in total to the fledging stage. In ecological terms, this is equivalent to virtually no breeding success this year. Arctic terns have also been hit hard, and are now showing evidence of serious decline.


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