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Rare Slavonian grebe found dead in Inverness came from Iceland

22/01/2013 12:30:55
birds/2012_december/Slavonian_grebe_Inverness_rspb

Slavonian grebe found in Inverness city centre(Credit: Cat Owen-Pam/RSPB)

"Dead duck" turns out be a scarce visitor from Iceland

January 2013. Local RSPB staff have collected a rare Slavonian grebe which was found dead in Inverness town centre. The bird is believed to have collided with an overhead wire. RSPB conservation manager Stuart Benn said, "We received a call from a traffic warden who said that he had found a dead duck in the town. His attention had been attracted by a ring that was present on the bird's leg. When we arrived we discovered that the bird was, in fact, a Slavonian grebe, a very rare breeding bird in Scotland. However when we checked the ring we found that the bird had been ringed in Iceland.

"This is an interesting discovery as it confirms that some birds from the Icelandic population spend the winter in Scottish waters and that the Moray Firth is important for these grebes as they are for many other species of marine birds."

Found in town centre
The bird was found by the River Ness near the pedestrian bridge that links Kenneth Street to the town centre. Mr Benn said, "Judging by its injuries I suspect the grebe must have flown into an overhead wire or cable. They are beautiful birds and it is very sad to see it in this state."

Slavonian grebe can be seen occasionally on the Moray Firth and Loch Ruthven. Photo credit Darren Chapman.

Slavonian grebe can be seen occasionally on the Moray Firth and Loch Ruthven. Photo credit Darren Chapman.

Mr Benn added, "The Slavonian grebe is a very rare breeding bird in Scotland and found only in a handful of lochs in the Highlands. Unfortunately the numbers are going down and the RSPB is making strenuous attempts to discover why this is the case and to try to prevent this very special bird from becoming extinct.

"One theory for the decline is that climate change is having an impact and our Scottish breeding population is slowly migrating north to Iceland which is the closest breeding colony to Scotland.

We have spent some time in trying to improve the birds' breeding habitat at our Loch Ruthven nature reserve near Farr which is still the best place in Scotland to see Slavonian grebes during the breeding season. Let's hope the birds manage to hang on and continue to delight the thousands of nature lovers who visit the reserve every year to see these Highland jewels.""

The discovery of the bird has also attracted interest in Iceland. Thorkell Lindberg Thorarinsson, the director of the North East Iceland Nature Center commented, "The bird was ringed in the summer of 2011 as an adult on it´s nest at Lake Vikingavatn, in North East Iceland. The ringing was a part of on-going study on the wintering distribution of Slavonian Grebes breeding in Iceland, which started in 2009. Preliminary results from the study suggest Icelandic grebes share wintering grounds with the other two North Atlantic populations, namely the Scottish and the Norwegian. A group of researchers have recently started a joint study on the population dynamics of those three Slavonian grebe populations."

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