Ring-wearing Puffins needed

No.:  2014-13
March 2014

Following the severe storms of the last three months, over 28,000 seabirds have been found dead along the coasts of southwest Europe from Spain to northern Scotland. Some of these storm-washed birds were wearing uniquely numbered rings that tell us their age and origin, many being from remote colonies in Wales and Scotland. To help monitor this unprecedented ‘wreck’ the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is urging beachcombers to check for rings if they find any dead birds.

Guillemot by Mark Grantham/BTO

The storms may have now abated but large numbers of seabirds, including Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills and Shags, are still being found dead on British, Irish and French beaches. The first sign of the seabird wreck appeared in France, with thousands of Puffins washing up dead or starving. However, dead birds are now being found in Spain, the Channel Islands and along the west coast of Britain, and a wider range of species are now washing up.

So far this year, over 400 ringed seabirds have been reported to the BTO, including record numbers of Puffins and Guillemots, but there are certainly more to find.

Mark Grantham of the BTO said: “These ringed birds are of great interest to us, as we are able to find out which breeding colonies these birds have come from, how old they are and the possible impacts on those breeding colonies.”

He added, “At this time of the year, adult birds will be making their way back to breeding colonies and it might be that more of this age group has been affected than any other. The only way we will know for sure is to collate as many reports of ringed birds as possible, and as such I urge anyone out and about on beaches over the weekend to check the legs of any dead birds they see for rings. If they find one it can be reported to us online at www.ring.ac or via the BTO website www.bto.org.”

Several of the Puffins have also been found carrying tiny geolocators, which record the bird’s location and some of its behaviour. This provides a vital insight into how these birds might have adapted to dealing with the sea conditions and the areas in which they spent the winter. If anyone finds a Puffin with a geolocator they should remove it and contact BTO with the ring number..

Notes for Editors

  1. The number of ringed birds reported in this wreck now stands at:
    · 124 Puffin (the highest previous January/February total was 102 in 1983)
    · 104 Guillemot (the first time more than 100 have been found in January/February)
    · 98 Razorbill
    · 75 Shag
    · 7 Gannet
    · 4 Black Guillemot

    The BTO have received reports of dead birds originating from most major Puffin colonies including Sule Skerry (40km from Orkney), the Shiant Islands in the Outer Hebridies, the Treshnish Islands (near the Isle of Mull), Great Saltee off Co Wexford, Ireland and Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire. If you find a ringed bird please report it at www.ring.ac.
     
  2. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations. www.bto.org

Contact Details

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at] bto.org

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