Concern for puffin population in Scotland as ‘large number’ found dying on Orkney shores

Dozens of ill and dead puffins have washed up on the shores of Orkney, prompting concern for their welfare.

Ill and dead puffins have washed up on the shores of Orkney, prompting concern for their welfare.

Vets at Flett and Carmichael, a local practice on the Scottish island, said a large number of dead birds have been found at Scapa beach and other beaches around Orkney – among them are a number of puffins.

They do not yet know why the birds are dying but they believe it is unlikely to be avian flu.

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They said the birds handed into them have been “very weak”, with some requiring rehydration fluids to help keep them alive.

The practice confirmed the deaths are being reported to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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Vet Leah Hunter told the PA News Agency that research is being done into why the puffins are being found dead or barely alive on the island.

She said the practice is currently in touch with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology which is collecting information on the dead puffins found in north-east Scotland and now Orkney.

“At this time of year the puffins should be far out at sea in groups so the fact that they are being washed up on land means that things have sadly gone wrong for them,” Ms Hunter said.

“But we will try to treat them as best we can and try to return them home if they survive the next few days.

“The puffins that have been presented to us have been very weak and cold.”

Earlier this year, a large number of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills, were found dead along the eastern coast of Scotland and other parts of the UK.

The RSPB has previously said while the exact cause of these birds’ deaths is unknown, climate change has an impact on driving prey fish numbers down and creating more extreme weather events.

Ms Hunter said the recent bout of extreme weather, including Storm Arwen which battered parts of the north-east of Scotland, could have had an impact on some of the puffins.

She added: “Research is being done into whether there is an unusual reason for this occurrence.

“We don’t have any further information as of yet.”

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