A NatureScot adviser based in Shetland has said he is “extremely concerned” about the impact of bird flu on the isles seabird population.
The Foula Heritage Facebook page shared photos over the weekend of a number of bonxies lying dead, saying the bird flu epidemic “is bad in Shetland now”.
The Scottish government introduced movement restrictions in Whalsay on Monday after bird flu was confirmed in the island, and four eiders were confirmed to have the illness earlier this month.
NatureScot’s marine ornithology adviser in Shetland, Glen Tyler, said that cases had been confirmed in great black-backed gulls, gannets and eiders in the last few weeks.
“A number of dead seabirds have been noted throughout Shetland, especially great skua (bonxies) and gannets, including at our Hermaness and Noss national nature reserves,” he said.
“We are extremely concerned about the situation and its potential impact on the internationally important seabird populations of these islands.
“We estimate that an outbreak of avian flu in bonxies last year impacted about 10 per cent of the Shetland population in those sites worst affected.
“This year, the outbreak appeared earlier in the season and has potential to inflict greater damage to these populations.”
Mr Tyler said that “some of the biggest numbers” of bird flu in the country had been found in Shetland.
“Thankfully, the risk to human health from avian flu is very low, but members of the public should avoid touching sick or dead wild birds and report any finds directly to Defra on 03459 33 55 77.”