As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Scotland's seabirds have declined 53% in 25 years

In response to this report by Scottish Natural Heritage. Rory Crawford, seabird policy officer with RSPB Scotland, said: “This report from SNH is timely. These declines are in line with what we’ve seen on our own reserves and this should act as a call to action. Better management of the sandeel fishery and efforts to control non-native species are both really welcome and RSPB Scotland support these steps strongly. However, although the nature conservation measures in the Marine (Scotland) Act are a brilliant step forward for many marine habitats and species, seabirds have been largely ignored in the process of identifying protected areas. Seabirds must be better protected at sea and RSPB Scotland strongly encourages the Scottish Government to ensure that steps are taken to protect seabirds through Marine Protected Areas before they are consulted on next summer.”

New report confirms Scotland's seabird decline
November 2012. A new report by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has confirmed results from previous years that showed that Scotland's seabird numbers have continued to decline, although there are some species that have fared better than others.

53% drop in breeding seabirds in 25 years
The report uses data collected by volunteers and professionals from a sample of breeding colonies around Scotland. It shows that, from 1986 to 2011, the numbers of seabirds breeding in Scotland has dropped by around 53%.

11 species reviewed
Of the 11 species reviewed over the 25-year period, the numbers of nine decreased. The largest declines were for the Arctic skua (74%), Arctic tern (72%) and black-legged kittiwake (66%). Two seabirds have remained stable (black guillemot and northern fulmar).

Food shortages, weather conditions and predation by non-native species
The continuing decreases have been linked to a range of factors such as food shortages, weather conditions and predation by non-native species such as brown rats and mink. The number of small shoaling fish, which are an important food source for many seabirds, may have fallen. These fish are probably being affected by rising sea temperatures because of climate change, as well as other factors.

Efforts to halt the decline
A range of measures has been put in place to help combat pressures on the seabirds. Voluntary reductions in sandeel fisheries means that very little if any sandeel fishing now takes place within the foraging range of kittiwakes, a species which has seen a particularly sharp drop in numbers in recent years. The control of non-native predators, such as the brown rat and the American mink, has also been carried out on various parts of the Scottish coastline and islands and is now starting to show some benefits, with terns re-colonising some areas. The Scottish Government's Marine Bill also includes measures to improve marine nature conservation to safeguard and protect Scotland's unique habitats.

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