Avian influenza affects bird colonies in Shetland Islands

Large numbers of seabirds use the cliffs of the Shetland Islands in Scotland. Credit: John Game

Seabirds in the Shetland Islands of Scotland are experiencing “unprecedented” numbers of die-offs from the highly pathogenic avian influenza. Species like northern gannets (Morus bassanus), great skuas (Stercorarius skua), and great black-backed gull (Larus marinus) were among the first birds to begin dying of the outbreak of this deadly bird flu variant, which has gone on to affect birds widely across North America. The large colonies of birds that arrive at the islands in the summer may have facilitated the virus’s proliferation. It’s even changing some of the ecological interactions between species there. The disease is adding additional stress to populations that are already being hit by other factors like climate change.

Read more at National Geographic.