Coquet Island seabirds observed with signs of bird flu immunity

A dying Roseate tern with its chicks

Roseate terns and their chicks have been affected by avian flu once more this 12 months

RSPB wardens on Coquet Island have known as for extra analysis into chook flu after observing how some seabirds seem to have developed immunity.

The sanctuary is situated a mile off the Northumberland coast and is a breeding floor for as much as 80,000 seabirds.

Since chook flu was confirmed in June, black-headed gulls, frequent terns and uncommon roseate terns have been worst hit.

However the sandwich terns haven’t been affected regardless of the virus having a “catastrophic” impact on them in 2022.

RSPB staff in full PPE

RSPB employees have been monitoring the chook flu outbreak on Coquet Island in full PPE

Website supervisor Stephen Westerberg stated extra analysis into the immunity of seabirds was wanted as “as some breeds are coping higher than others.”

This 12 months, the sandwich terns returned to a brand new colony they established late final 12 months after chook flu worn out their earlier breeding website final July.

Though the numbers of returning birds had halved from 2022, the chicks fledged early, shifting away from the breeding space on to the shoreline, from the place they’re anticipated to depart quickly.

It’s in a stark distinction to the black headed gull inhabitants which has been badly hit.

Dead black headed gull on Coquet Island

Black headed gulls have been hit laborious by the virus with 1000’s useless

Mr Westerberg stated about 5,000 black headed gulls had succumbed to chook flu, with solely a handful of fledged juveniles surviving.

Widespread terns and Arctic terns have additionally been affected by the virus.

“Each time I visited there have been simply an increasing number of useless adults and chicks mendacity round however, on the final go to originally of July, we had some giant chicks wanting wholesome and fledged chicks,” Mr Westerberg stated.

“So some frequent terns have managed to fledge younger and that maybe factors in the direction of immunity.

“Extra Arctic tern pairs moved right here this 12 months to nest, in comparison with final 12 months, however the breeding floor seemed empty the final time we have been there.

“So it appears to be like just like the virus has come in numerous waves and affected completely different species.”

About 108 pairs of roseate terns returned and, though many chicks have been discovered to have died inside their nest packing containers, some fledged roseate terns have been ringed so their survival could be monitored.

Roseate terns, Coquet Island

Wholesome roseate terns have been monitored though survival charges for chicks has not been good

Wardens have been unable to dwell on the island since chook flu was confirmed. As a substitute they’ve been monitoring by visits.

Mr Westerberg, who took up his submit mid June, stated: “Had I taken on this job with out chook flu it could have been unbelievably improbable doing all of the seabird monitoring.

“However, due to chook flu, it is irritating coping with it, for good causes, because it’s limiting what we’re making an attempt to do with monitoring, because it would not be secure for the birds and it would not be secure for us.”

He’s hopeful funding could be secured for environmental monitoring at Coquet, with analysis carried out into whether or not the virus stays within the floor.

The RSPB is in dialogue with Pure England about securing authorities cash.

Pure England has been approached for remark.

Common tern chick on Coquet Island

Some frequent tern chicks have fledged indicating a potential immunity to chook flu

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