Scottish gull's future threatened by predators and starvation

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The Independent Online

One of Scotland's most familiar coastal birds is in danger of disappearing from its natural habitat due to a shortage of food and an increase in predators.

One of Scotland's most familiar coastal birds is in danger of disappearing from its natural habitat due to a shortage of food and an increase in predators.

For generations the cry of the kittiwake has echoed from the cliffs of Shetland and Isle of May in the Firth of Forth. But a sharp decline in numbers has caused alarm among conservationists, who say the bird is in danger of vanishing from Shetland within 20 years.

A survey of bird populations on the islands has shown that the kittiwake, the only species truly worthy of the name seagull as it rarely ventures far from salt water, is in danger .

A succession of bad breeding years combined with a shortage in sand eels, has meant the numbers of kittiwakes has almost halved in the last 17 years. The number of breeding pairs has dropped from 54,600 in 1981 to 23,000 in 1998, stated a report by the department of research & innovation at the University of Aberdeen, published in the journal Atlantic Seabirds.

Kittiwakes' main predators are great skuas, and their population has increased as the number of sand eels has declined, the report stated.

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