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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
'Disastrous' season for seabirds
Guillemot. Picture by RSPB Images
Guillemot are among the birds suffering, the RSPB said
Scotland's seabirds are having a "disastrous" breeding season, according to RSPB Scotland.

It said mid-season reports had found cliffs, where there should be thousands of birds, almost empty.

Parts of Shetland, Orkney and Cape Wrath in the Highlands were among the worst affected.

RSPB Scotland said climate change appeared to be disrupting food supply, but added that more research would need to be done.

The charity said Scotland's coastline supported 45% of the European Union's seabird breeding population.

It said that for some areas the season was worse than last year and heading towards being the worst since a "dreadful" 2004 season.

Some cliffs which should be packed with birds are just about bare as adult birds abandon the nest once their breeding attempt has failed
Norman Ratcliffe
Seabird ecologist

However, reserves on the east coast such as Fowlsheugh and Troup Head along with southern colonies like Mull of Galloway were doing better, but still down on previous years.

Common terns and guillemots were doing badly, while kittiwakes were holding on in the south and east.

Norman Ratcliffe, seabird ecologist with RSPB Scotland, said chicks were not getting enough food.

He said: "Some cliffs which should be packed with birds are just about bare as adult birds abandon the nest once their breeding attempt has failed. This is all linked to food availability, which can be disrupted for a number of reasons.

"We're fairly certain that on the east coast, rising sea temperatures are leading to plankton regime shifts, which in turn affects fish like sand eels - a major food source for seabirds."

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