Mull white-tailed eagle chick lifeless from chook flu

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Considerations are rising over the influence extremely pathogenic avian influenza HPAI, often known as chook flu, might need on Scotland’s iconic white-tailed eagle inhabitants after a lifeless chick on Mull examined constructive for the illness. Over the previous couple of weeks, chicks from not less than 4 white-tailed eagle nests on the island have both died on the nest shortly earlier than or after fledging, with the mother or father birds’ behaviour according to the chicks having died.

In mid-July, 19 chicks had been on the verge of fledging from nests in Mull which might have been only one fewer than the document quantity in 2021. Then Dave Sexton, RSPB Scotland’s Mull Officer, who screens the birds began getting sudden stories of suspected lifeless chicks from a number of places.

Such deaths at this stage of the chicks’ lives are uncommon, and with the present critical outbreak of HPAI in thoughts, NatureScot and RSPB Scotland organized for skilled climbers to scale Sitka spruce timber to entry two of the nests the place it was suspected the chicks had died, to swab the our bodies for HPAI testing. The our bodies at two of the opposite nests had been too decomposed to be examined.

White-tailed Eagle, copyright Glyn Sellors, from the surfbirds galleries

The climbers had been sporting full PPE when making the 12 metre climbs and located each chicks lifeless within the nests. The swab taken from probably the most not too long ago deceased chick was constructive for HPAI. The opposite was destructive; nevertheless, the chick was in a sophisticated state of decomposition which can have affected the outcomes.

The deaths of those white-tailed eagle chicks have made a major contribution to a big drop in Mull breeding success this yr. As long-lived birds, one yr of such chick losses shouldn’t influence the species considerably in the long run. Nevertheless, considerations are {that a} extended outbreak of HPAI may trigger a number of extra summers of chicks dying which might.

White-tailed eagle chicks all the time have challenges to beat surviving their first few months and this yr unhealthy climate within the spring, and tree collapses had been already having an influence on survival charges. Now, with these earlier deaths mixed with the newer ones simply half as many chicks anticipated to outlive as in 2021. Lifeless white-tailed eagle chicks elsewhere on the west coast have additionally examined constructive for HPAI.

Dave Sexton mentioned: “Late summer season is normally an unbelievable time of yr for Mull’s white-tailed eagles as the children fledge and study to fend for themselves; a contented time for these of us concerned in monitoring them throughout their first few months.

“These previous few weeks although have as a substitute been heart-breaking with so many chicks dying. Visiting nest after nest the place, as a substitute of listening to younger birds calling, there’s silence, and the place grownup birds are ignoring my presence somewhat than alarming, is terrible.

“In the mean time on Mull it seems to simply be the chicks impacted however such a considerable lack of this yr’s children could be very worrying. My one uplifting second in all this has been discovering Skye and Frisa’s twenty fifth chick alive and nicely and flying confidently. I can solely hope that she survives and that grownup birds on Mull proceed to be unaffected.”

Monitoring white-tailed eagle chicks will be vastly difficult with nests usually excessive up in timber surrounded by foliage. Observers need to piece collectively how chicks are faring by way of affected person commentary of grownup behaviour, anticipating motion on the nest and listening out for calls or vocalisations, while additionally making certain to not trigger disturbance to the birds.

White-tailed eagles are specifically protected on the nest and from reckless harassment and underneath the present circumstances RSPB Scotland is encouraging the general public to be very cautious about inflicting any extra disturbance to birds which can be already underneath stress

The lifeless chick joins the tens, presumably a whole bunch, of hundreds of untamed birds which have already died within the UK due to this unprecedented outbreak of HPAI.

The Scottish Authorities responded to requires motion by organising a activity drive led by NatureScot which is able to co-ordinate motion to sort out the present outbreak, plan forward for future outbreaks and take motion to assist shield and restore chook populations and enhance their resilience.

The present UK authorities has to date resisted calls to develop a Nationwide HPAI Wild Bird Response Plan for England or to assist co-ordinate responses throughout the nations, placing wild birds and the poultry business at additional threat.

The RSPB has additionally not too long ago known as for a direct moratorium on the discharge, for capturing, of captive bred gamebirds and geese as a precaution to attempt to restrict additional unfold of avian influenza.

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