RSPB launches investigation after hundreds of seabird carcasses are found floating in the sea

The RSPB has opened an investigation after hundreds of seabird carcasses were found floating in the North Sea – including along the beaches near Bridlington.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 10:43 am
Guillemots (pictured at RSPB Bempton), puffins, razorbills and kittiwakes have been found at various locations along the North Sea Coast.

Dead birds have been found at locations including Filey and Runswick Bay, and there have also been mass deaths off the Northumberland and Scottish coastlines.

It is not known if the phenomenon – which seems to particularly affect guillemots – is caused by disease, a marine pollution event or long-term environmental pressure.

Species such as puffins, razorbills and kittiwakes have also been affected.

There have also been reports of dead sand eels being washed up along the shore.

Bird flu has been ruled out but poisoning from algae blooms is among the possibilities being assessed. The bodies show signs of malnutrition, suggesting low fish stocks could be to blame, and the guillemots have been seen up to 20 miles inland feeding in rivers and along beaches, despite them normally avoiding people.

Mass death events are known as ‘wrecks’ but usually occur in winter following storms.

Maria Prchlik, from RSPB Bempton Cliffs, said: “Extreme weather, pollution and disease can kill seabirds.

“If prey fish are scarce, seabirds can be weakened through starvation.

“We don’t know the exact cause here, but we know climate change is driving prey fish numbers down in our seas and creating more extreme weather events.

“The world is in a nature and climate crisis with humans and wildlife already experiencing the impacts.

“We need urgent action from Governments to help revive our world.

“We also want to advise people not to pick up or touch any dead birds they find but they should report any to Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. CEH have suggested tweeting them this information using the Twitter handle, @UKCEHseabirds, or send them an email with the same info.

“A picture would likely be useful to confirm ID for those unsure.”

The RSPCA added: We are saddened and concerned to hear about recent incidents relating to dead and sick guillemots.

“To report concerns about any sick animal including seabirds such as guillemots please contact the RSPCA’s helpline on 0800 1234 999.”