Scientists track Scottish seabirds by sat-nav

Image caption Researchers tracked seabirds in journeys of up to 340km

Scientists have found that seabirds around the Scottish coast are travelling further in search of food than previously thought.

They said climate change could be to blame for a collapse in food supplies.

The scientists have been using technology more commonly found in car sat-navs to discover where the birds feed.

The equipment revealed exactly where the birds fly and how deep they dive while feeding.

One guillemot from Fair Isle flew all the way to the waters off Dundee to feed, a journey of around 340km.

Dr Ellie Owen of RSPB Scotland has been leading the research.

She said: "We're not sure why our seabirds are doing this. It's possible that the food resources close to the colony are no longer reliable, so they're foraging further afield."

Seabird numbers in Scotland have been falling sharply in recent years, especially in the north.

At Marwick Head in Orkney, there's been a 53% drop in seabird numbers since 2000.

At Troup Head near Fraserburgh, guillemot numbers are down by 66%.

And at the Fowlsheugh reserve on the Aberdeenshire coast, a decline of 73% was recorded in the kittiwake population.

Rory Crawford, RSPB Scotland's Seabird Policy Officer, believes climate change is having an impact on the availability of food for seabirds.

He said: "We have seen a significant increase in sea surface temperatures in the north east Atlantic and that in turn has had a big impact on plankton levels.

"There's been a 70% decrease in plankton since the 1970s. Plankton is sand eel food and sand eels are seabird food."

The research was part of the Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment project.

The information gathered could lead to the designation of Marine Protected Areas, designed to protect the most important feeding grounds from the effects of over-fishing or the development of offshore renewable energy projects.

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