The Daily Telegraph
Avian flu turns Cornish coast into grave for seabirds
AVIAN flu has spread to the Cornish coast, where people have been warned to avoid hundreds of dead birds washed up on beaches.
More than 50 dead birds were counted on just one two-mile stretch of Cornish beach, between Downderry and Seaton, yesterday.
And local scientists also reported gannets, seabirds which do not usually come inland, being seen dead and dying on the streets of Penzance.
Rosie Woodroffe, a biologist from Newlyn, south-west Cornwall, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I found several dying on the beach in Newlyn on Sunday and on the same afternoon one was found lying on a busy pavement in town. They’ve been reported miles inland. It’s very distressing and horrible to see.”
The disease originated in farmed birds in Asia in the early 2000s but is now being spread mostly by wild birds.
Martin Fowlie, spokesman for the RSPB, said over the past year the disease had been affecting species not previously afflicted, such as white-tailed eagles and roseate terns.
The dead gannets in Cornwall are thought to be from colonies in Scotland, Wales and northern France that set out to spend winter at sea and succumbed to the flu near the Cornish coast.
The charity is now concerned about the impact on wading birds, such as knots, curlews and dunlin, which spend winters in the UK and could be infected as they return in the coming weeks.
Mr Fowlie said: “It’s heartbreaking to see yet more dead and dying seabirds on our coasts. This is the worst outbreak of avian influenza we have ever seen with hundreds of thousands of birds dead from the disease this year.
“Urgent government leadership and action is needed now, across all four countries of the UK, to better understand this terrible disease and how best to minimise its effects on our globally important seabirds.
“Don’t approach dead or dying birds, and report them to the Defra hotline.”