Protecting our seabirds: Farne Islands closure due to bird flu

Due to the potentially devastating impact of Avian Flu (bird flu) on our much-loved seabird colonies on the Farne Islands, the islands will be closed to visitors from Sunday 3 July. By closing we'll reduce the risk of disturbance to the birds, which will hopefully help at least slow down the spread of the disease during this breeding period before they leave the islands in late summer to continue their annual migratory cycle.

While we have no confirmed test results from the islands yet, we're starting to see the sad and distressing impact of Avian Influenza on our internationally important and threatened seabirds which live on the Farne Islands. We have taken the decision to close the islands to visitors as we try to protect our precious seabird colonies. 

The disease, which was first discovered in UK domestic bird populations last winter, is now impacting wild birds, with infection proving to be fatal. It spreads when birds come into direct contact with an infected bird, faeces, body fluids or indirectly via food and water.

The effect of the disease on the colonies we care for could be devastating due to many species having low reproduction rates, which means the loss of adult birds has a huge impact on populations being able to recover. Many of the birds which nest here, such as the vulnerable Atlantic Puffin, are already experiencing huge pressures, due to climate change with warming sea temperatures impacting food stocks.

Seabirds such as Arctic Terns nesting in dense colonies, most of which are already in decline in the UK, are particularly vulnerable now as they have returned to the islands in their thousands to breed, nesting in close proximity to each other.

Our ranger teams work tirelessly to monitor and protect these colonies, but due to finding significant numbers of dead birds, we simply have no other choice but to close the islands.

We understand how many people love to visit the islands, but we must do everything we can to protect and to try to help these much-loved seabirds by limiting the spread of the disease.

Visitors are still able to take "sail around" tours of the islands with all boat companies, and can still land on Longstone with Golden Gate. Please book tickets directly with one of the boat companies that operate from Seahouses harbour:

The ranger team will remain on the islands to continue to monitor the birds while the islands are closed to visitors.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has advised that the risk to the general public's health is very low, but people should not touch sick or dead birds. If found, please report any dead birds to Defra on 0345 9335577.