A Tern wing lying on a beach in Shetland.

Thousands of wild birds are dying – we urgently need your help

  • Largest ever series of outbreaks in the UK
  • Thousands of dead and dying seabirds in Scotland
  • Follows the death of over 10,000 barnacle geese last year

We have never seen Avian Flu killing so many wild birds before

RSPB's Stephen Magee on a cliff top

Right now, Avian Flu is killing thousands of wild birds across the UK. 

Scotland is being seriously hit, with widespread deaths of great skuas on many of Scotland’s coasts and islands including Shetland, Orkney, the Firth of Forth and the Western Isles.

Gannets are dying at some of their key colonies and there are also reports of the virus killing great numbers of sandwich and arctic terns, eider ducks and guillemots.

The latest from our staff on the ground

Bird flu in Shetland - Helen's story

RSPB Scotland's Shetland Islands Manager Helen Moncrieff explains how this terrible time has affected her and the seabird cities the islands are famous for.

Helen Moncrieff on a boat discussing the impact of bird flu

Bird flu in Shetland - Kevin's story

Site Manager Kevin Kelly explains how this harrowing work has affected him and why it's crucial to act now and protect wild birds as best we can.

More videos
  • Helen Moncrieff on a boat discussing the impact of bird flu
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    Bird flu in Shetland - Helen's story
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    Bird flu in Shetland - Kevin's story

The UK's seabird populations are of global significance. This disease is another threat to add to the challenges they are already facing. 

These latest outbreaks follow the death of over 10,000 Svalbard barnacle geese on the Solway Firth last winter. Geese were seen falling from the sky in distress and lines of dead birds were washed up on beaches. More than a third of their population was wiped out.

There are now confirmed cases in England too.

Worryingly, the worst could still be to come

A dead Fulmar on a beach in Shetland

The truth is we have never seen Avian Flu kill so many wild birds before. This new form of the disease is more deadly to wild birds than previous forms of the virus. The outbreak in early winter is now being followed by another outbreak - but the scale of wild bird deaths is unprecedented. The fear is that it may continue to spread around the UK and affect many other species of wild bird. 

Help us respond to the outbreak

Staff in PPE clearing dead birds affected by avian flu

Our teams in affected areas are working to monitor the impacts and progress of the disease. They’re helping to ensure birds are tested, protecting vulnerable populations and, where appropriate, safely removing carcasses. This is costly and time-consuming. It is also deeply distressing for the staff and volunteers involved. We must work to limit the spread of this disease across wild bird populations wherever we can. 

We must also act now to better understand this disease, working with government, decision-makers, and others on a coordinated national response. 

Our work to improve the breeding success of seabirds around our shores will be even more important in the future, to help recovery and rebuild numbers. We need to increase our scientific research and boost conservation efforts in key seabird nesting areas.

Please see our dedicated page for information on what do to if you find a sick or dead wild bird.

If you can, please help us prevent this devastating disease killing even more of our wild birds

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could help us visit a seabird colony to monitor spread of the disease
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could fund PPE for a staff member or volunteer
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could help the RSPB fund urgent scientific research to support seabird population recovery