Bird flu depletes bonxie numbers but Hermaness has record tourist season

Bonxies have fallen by 78 per cent at Noss nature reserve, NatureScot has said, after bird flu decimated the breeding population.

The government agency said it had been a “difficult year” at its Shetland reserves due to the virus.

Breeding numbers of gannets also fell by 16 per cent at Noss, while both species “suffered badly” at Hermaness in Unst.

Despite restrictions due to bird flu, Hermaness had its best ever tourist season – with over 10,000 people visiting the site for the first time.

And “against all odds”, NatureScot said, the breeding success for bonxies at Noss was better than many other years.

Kittiwake numbers also climbed by 58 per cent, it said.

Other species appeared to evade the virus, including shags, guillemots, razorbills, puffins and fulmars, with numbers and breeding success of these species either on par with last year, or slightly improved.

One guillemot at Noss was discovered with a leg ring which revealed the bird to be an incredible 31-years-old, having been ringed as a chick on the Isle of Canna in 1991.

NatureScot said the bird of the year was the first record on Shetland – and only the second in Scotland – of a Pacific swift, which was spotted hawking for insects at the Noup, the highest point on the island.


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  • Mr ian Tinkler

    • December 21st, 2022 11:19

    That is very sad but not a surprise as scavenger species are much at risk. There however are a core that has survived, 20%. One can assume that 20% carry a natural immunity to this strain of avian flu. If that is so that immunity will be passed on to their offspring. That is simply how nature works and numbers should increase dramatically as there will be 80% more food for the survivors and their youngsters. A bit like the bubonic plague and humanity.


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