A RARE bird has bred in Scotland for the first time.

Mediterranean gulls were once a rare sight in the UK but have been recorded breeding on the south and south-east coasts of England in recent years.

With their distribution expanding northwards the occasional bird was spotted spending the summer in Scottish colonies and even pairing with both black-headed and common gulls.

However, two pairs were recorded as successfully breeding at the Forvie National Nature Reserve in Ellon in 2023.

It is believed to be the first time the species has bred in Scotland.

Tragically, none of the chicks survived with experts suggesting a lack of food may be to blame.

Daryl Short, a reserve officer at Forvie, said: “While we have seen visiting Mediterranean gulls at Forvie before, we were very surprised to see two pairs of two-year-old birds settle in the black-headed gull colony this summer, with each pair successfully hatching chicks.

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“Sadly, none of the chicks survived to fledge, which was likely due to food shortage because of the drought at the time.

“Earthworms are an important part of the diet of small gulls, and they would have been hard to find in those conditions.

“Also, with all four parent birds being quite young, they would have been inexperienced breeders, reducing their chances of success in a new environment.

“Despite the pairs not successfully fledging any chicks, this was still a really exciting development for Forvie as the species expands its breeding range northwards and we are looking forward to seeing what happens in 2024.”

The species started to colonise the UK in the 1980’s due to changes in climate, the creation of new wetland habitats and better protection of colonies in western Europe.

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Yet, while Mediterranean gulls made progress in Scotland other species continued to suffer from avian flu.

Although Forvie’s black-headed gulls fledged a record 1353 young, the site’s tern colonies suffered enormously from the disease.

Amongst the sandwich tern population there was a 75% mortality rate in chicks while adult arctic terns suffered 18% mortality.

NatureScot said it continues to monitor the impact of the virus and ensure measures are in place to support the recovery of all species being affected.