Avian flu feared to be the cause of increased sightings of dead and sick birds

An outbreak of avian flu is thought to be the reason for a swathe of dead birds around Forres, Findhorn and the along the Moray Coast.

A post in our Forres Loves Local Facebook Group asking for people to take down their bird feeders in Pilmuir has prompted more than 50 comments from other locals, with many showing cause for concern and some reporting their own sightings of dead and sick birds in the area.

Yesterday, NatureScot, which is working with the British Trust for Ornithology, the RSPB and the National Trust, said that Scotland’s Avian Flu Task Force is on high alert following an increase in reports of dead seabirds around our coasts.

So far in Scotland this spring/summer, testing has confirmed Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Sandwich tern, common tern, kittiwake, herring gull, black-headed gull and guillemot.

Cases have been confirmed in nature reserves at Forvie and Isle of May, however, NatureScot say the overall picture is not yet clear as elsewhere testing has had mixed results, with some tests of kittiwakes and black-headed gulls in different parts of the country coming back negative for avian flu.

The Scottish Government recently declared a 3km Protection Zone and 10km Surveillance Zone at a farm near Banff on Sunday (July 9).

Dr Liz Huphreys, BTO Scotland principal seabird ecologist, said: “It’s clear that our seabirds are still being badly affected by HPAI, despite the fact the scale of mortality initially seemed less catastrophic than last year. “We need members of the public to submit all sightings of dead birds to BirdTrack and the dead wild birds service. These sightings provide an early warning of where the virus may have hit and allows us to track its movement across the UK.

Members of the public should avoid touching sick or dead wild birds and visitors to coastal areas are advised to keep their dogs on a lead to avoid them picking up dead birds.

If you find a single dead bird of prey, swan, goose, duck or gull or five or more dead wild birds of any other species at the same time, you should report them on GOV.UK’s Report dead wild birds’ page (link above) or phone the DEFRA helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

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