Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Alamy Stock Photo (File Image) 160 adult common terns and 450 chicks have been found dead at one of three sites that are monitored by the group.
Bird Flu

'Alarming and unprecedented' outbreak of bird flu impacting seabird colonies

Bird conservationists say they have collected and disposed of “hundreds” of dead seabirds to prevent the spread of the disease.

BIRDWATCH IRELAND HAVE warned of an “alarming and unprecedented” outbreak of a “highly pathogenic” strain of bird flu or avian flu that has impacted “some of Ireland’s most important seabird colonies”.

The bird conservationists say they have been collecting and disposing of “hundreds” of dead seabirds in an effort to prevent the further spread of the disease, which is highly contagious.

The hardest hit birds are members of the tern family, who are normally found around the sea and wetlands. All five species of tern birds in Ireland are “amber-listed”, according to BirdWatch Ireland.

As of today, 160 adult common terns and 450 chicks have been found dead at Lady’s Island Lake by the group, which is one of three sites that are monitored by the group.

BirdWatch Ireland added that a “small number” of common terns have been also been found dead on one other site, Rockabill Island, which test positive for bird flu after being tested by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The group say that there are fears that his outbreak could have “long-term, devastating consequences” for the seabird population in Ireland “which are of international importance”.

“A large-scale outbreak of bird ‘flu in this colony would have disastrous repercussions for Roseate Terns at an international level,” BirdWatch Ireland said on their website yesterday.

The warning from the group comes as Minister for State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan announced Ireland’s largest protected area for birds today, which will cover over 230,000 hectares of marine waters for a range of bird species. 

The Special Protection Area, in the North-West Irish Sea, will be designated under the EU birds directive and will increase the State’s total protected areas by 9%. 

A similar outbreak last year saw BirdWatch receive a “very high volume of phone calls” about the presence of dead and dying seabirds, according to Head of Communications Niall Hatch.

Populations of the Gannet, Ireland’s largest breeding seabird species, were particularly hard-hit during last year’s outbreak, which led the organisation to call on the government to dispose of the carcasses quickly to stop the spread of the infection.

The Journal contacted the Department of Agriculture for comment, who did not respond at the original time of publishing.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel