Avian Flu: More than 1,000 dead birds cleared from Aberdeenshire beaches in just three days

Scattered amongst the seaweed, dead birds litter otherwise scenic beaches. It is believed they’ve died from avian flu, but testing is underway to see if that’s what’s hit seabird colonies during peak breeding season. ITV News' Louise Scott reports

More than 1,000 dead birds have been collected from Aberdeenshire beaches this week amidst continued concern over the spread of bird flu.

Thought to have been struck down by Avian Influenza, testing is currently underway to see what has killed over a thousand birds that now litter beaches across the north-east of Scotland.

Frontline teams decked out in full PPE have been collecting the dead birds, with 520 dead birds found on Stonehaven Beach, 120 from Cruden Bay, more than 150 from Balmedie Beach, and 250 from Inverbervie Beach.

ITV News' Louise Scott met with teams tasked with testing the birds.

Members of the public who have been trying to assist in disposing of the dead birds have been advised not to bury or bin their carcasses.

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: "A year on from the previous outbreak, our frontline crews have been kitted out in full PPE to carry out the safe removal of hundreds of birds which, it is suspected, carry avian influenza, and we thank them for all their efforts once again.

"Our thanks also go to a number of our own staff from various services who have come forward and volunteered to assist with future collections as and when required.

"We have heard reports of people trying to assist in the clean-up by burying or binning bird carcasses, but please - for your own safety - leave the disposal to us."

Scotland’s Avian Flu Task Force has said it is on high alert following an increase in reports of dead seabirds around north-east coasts.

More than 1,000 dead birds have been collecting from beaches across the north-east of Scotland.

NatureScot and partners, previously reported a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Sandwich tern, common tern, kittiwake, herring gull, black-headed gull, and guillemot.

The virus was confirmed at NatureScot’s Forvie National Nature Reserve (NNR) in black-headed gulls and Sandwich terns, with more than 200 Sandwich terns having died at the reserve. 

Kittiwakes also tested positive for the virus on the Isle of May NNR, confirming that avian flu is likely responsible for the growing number of deaths being reported there. 

However, Scotland's nature agency stated the overall picture was "not yet clear" with tests on some birds in other parts of the country having come back negative.

Alastair MacGugan, a NatureScot Wildlife Manager, said: “Unfortunately after a quieter period we are beginning to see an increase in the number of dead birds being reported through our surveillance network, particularly on the east coast.

“While we are thankfully not seeing the large numbers of dead birds around breeding sites that we did last year, this development is really concerning and we’re working hard with all partners in Scotland’s Avian Flu Task Force to understand what is happening and take action to make our wild bird populations more resilient.

“Testing is key to unravelling just what is happening to our seabirds. We are working with Scottish Government and the Animal and Plant Health Agency to coordinate testing and when possible, to carry out post mortems on dead birds.

"This gives us a clearer picture on whether starvation or avian flu is the main cause of the current deaths we are seeing."

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