Mystery as dozens of dead and sick sea birds wash up on remote UK island

Dozens of ill and dead birds have washed up on the shores of a UK island, with researchers unsure as to the reasons why.

The island of Orkney, in Scotland, saw several puffins wash up on Scapa beach, along with other species of birds.

Local vets said the birds handed into them have been “very weak”, with some requiring rehydration fluids to help keep them alive, Glasgow Live reports.

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

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.

She explained: “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.

“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.

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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.

Dr 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.”

The Scottish Government said vessels from its Marine Scotland Directorate have collected water, plankton and fish samples from the east coast of the country to investigate the presence of potential harmful algal species that could harm seabirds.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These samples are currently being analysed and we will report the findings in due course.

“Further work is also ongoing to explore whether changes in prey abundance or quality are a potential factor.

“We are continuing to work closely with a range of other organisations to investigate a number of potential causes of this unusual and distressing event.

“Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people, so members of the public should not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that they find along the Scottish coastline.”

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