By Joe Stenson -
April 1, 2016
ONE of the rarest birds in
producing chicks with “lethal blindness” as a result of inbreeding. Scotland
There are only 60 breeding pairs of red-billed choughs in
– nesting on the remote Hebridean islands of Colonsay and Islay.
The birds are remarkable for their brightly coloured crimson bills and their mischievous acrobatic behaviour.
But new research by the
– published in the Journal of Animal Ecology – has revealed that newly-hatched
birds are being born blind due to inbreeding on the islands. University of Aberdeen
The study shows that 3% of chough chicks born in
every year since 1998 are now born blind. Scotland
29 “nestlings” – young birds that have yet to leave the nest – have been hatched blind by nine pairs of parents since the first case was recorded in 1998.
The chicks are otherwise healthy and survive in the nest when they are fed by their parents.
But once they leave the nest they are unable to care for themselves and die.
As a result the paper refers to their impairment as “lethal blindness”.
And – according to the research – the parent pairs which are hatching blind chicks are even breeding more than their healthy counterparts.