Experts formulate management guidelines for avian flu outbreaks in Sandwich tern colonies

As migratory birds are returning from their southern wintering grounds to their breeding sites in the Wadden Sea, in view of the experience in 2022, researchers and site managers are concerned about new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in colonially breeding birds. Ample discussions have been held over the past months regarding measures that may help to prevent or mitigate future outbreaks. Building on two workshops organised within the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation, the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat has now published "Management guidelines - Mitigation and data collection strategies for avian influenza in bird colonies in the Wadden Sea" specifically for Sandwich tern colonies.

The document contains a set of management options allowing site managers to make informed decisions which can help reduce the likelihood of introduction of HPAI and, in case of further outbreaks, contain the spread of the virus within breeding colonies. The guidelines are intended to be used by managers in the event of a bird flu outbreak to prioritise their activities and to take the necessary precautions. While the measures developed here are partly based on the behaviour of the Sandwich terns and thus not directly transferrable, it provides many suggestions that will help to mitigate outbreaks in other species. New information may be added to the document as they become available.

For the upcoming breeding season, site managers, researchers, and conservationists are asked to report any information on potential and confirmed HPAI cases among Sandwich terns to Thomas Bregnballe. In addition, site managers and researchers are asked to take tissue samples from the breast muscles of freshly dead Sandwich terns, if safely possible and following the necessary precautions highlighted in the guidelines. These samples will contribute to a recently started DNA-project aimed at identifying the relatedness of Sandwich terns breeding in different parts of Europe. The tissue samples should be stored in absolute ethanol. Please contact Ulrich Knief for details on the project and the delivery of containers for samples.