HPAIV outbreak triggers long-distance movements in breeding Northern
gannets -- implications for disease spread
Animal movement is a fundamental driver of disease spread. We show that
an outbreak of high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) is coincident
with unprecedented behavioural changes in GPS tracked Northern gannets.
Previously characterised by strong fidelity to their nest sites and
foraging areas (2015 – 2019; n = 120), breeding gannets tracked before,
during and after the 2022 outbreak showed half of ten birds stopped
transmitting and most likely died, while the survivors instigated
unusual long-distance movements. Two adults visited one - three other
gannetries – the first such incidence of prospecting in this age class.
Our findings suggest the HPAIV outbreak triggered changes in space use
patterns of possibly infected individuals that amplified the
epidemiological connectivity among colonies and may generate
super-spreader events that accelerate disease transmission across the
metapopulation. Such self-propagating transmission from and towards high
density animal aggregations may explain the rapid pan-European spread of
HPAIV in the gannet.