Careless disposal of plastic bags puts birdlife at risk

The Red-throated diver with plastic bag in North Uist
The Red-throated diver with plastic bag in North Uist

RSPB Scotland has spoken out about the danger of plastic bags to wildlife after a visitor photographed a red-throated diver with a bag in its beak.

The rare bird was seen on a loch in a remote part of North Uist.

Jamie Boyle, site manager of the RSPB’s Uist reserves, said, “We urge people to take great care in the way they dispose of plastic bags or, indeed, any other rubbish, particularly balloons and Chinese lanterns.

“They pose a direct threat to our wildlife and it is depressing to think that plastic bags are even reaching remote lochans in a place like North Uist.

“Marine birds such as red-throated divers are particularly at risk both at sea and on their breeding grounds where they can mistake the bags for fish or mistakenly use it for nesting material. If it becomes entangled on their legs or heads it can prove fatal.”

The red-throated diver is the smaller of the two breeding species of diver in the UK.

Its grey-brown plumage and up-tilted bill readily distinguishes it from the black-throated diver.

In summer it has a distinctive red throat. They usually jump up to dive and can stay underwater for a minute and a half. They are very ungainly on land, only coming ashore to breed. A recent moderate population decline makes them an Amber List species.

RSPB Scotland welcomed the Scottish Parliament’s approval earlier this year of new regulations that will introduce a compulsory charge for single-use carrier bags.

The 5p charge, applying to all retailers from October this year, will aim to reduce use of single-use carrier bags by 80 per cent.