Registered IM Charity No. 1228
Registered IM Charity No. 1228

Litter and pollution

We regularly deal with birds who have been injured due to litter, fishing gear, plastic and pollution on the Isle of Man. Here are some examples. 


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This oystercatcher was found hobbling around in Ramsey. Both of his legs were almost severed due to plastic netting tightly wrapped around them. His leg bones were also infected, so he was humanely euthanised by the vet. 

A juvenile Herring Gull in Peel with fishing line wrapped around his leg. The pain means that he can’t put weight on the foot. 

 We were unable to catch him and do not know what happened to him. 

When string or fishing line becomes tightly tangled around a bird's leg, eventually the leg will become necrotic and fall off. Usually the bird will die of infection or be unable to forage efficiently and starve, but sometimes they can heal and manage to survive with one leg, like the gull on the left in the photo. 

This Black Guillemot was spotted in Peel with fishing line tangled around both legs. Our volunteer was unable to catch him and we do not know know if he survived. 

Three ducklings were found tangled in netting in the river at Glen Wyllin, and a member of the public waded in and rescued them. Their mother could not be found, so one of our volunteers reared them and released them when they were old enough. 

A member of the public took this gull to Arg Beiyn Veterinary Practice, who x-rayed him and found that he had a fishing hook in his throat. They managed to removed it, but there was a lot of bleeding and soft-tissue damage and afterwards the gull refused to eat. They prescribed antibiotics and anti-inflammatories for him and asked us if we could take him and tube-feed him until he was ready to eat. We did and he made a full recovery, and we released him a week later. 

Sparrow collecting string for his nest. This puts his youngsters at risk of becoming entangled. 

Fledgling sparrow found with string wrapped around his leg - in this case it was easily removed and no harm was done.

This fledgling sparrow wasn’t so lucky. One of his toes had already died and fallen off, the wound was infected and despite antibiotic treatment he died. 

One of our volunteers managed to lure and catch this gull, who was seen flying around with a fishing hook dangling from his nostril. No permanent harm was done and after the fishing hook was removed he was released.  

Strands of orange and blue plastic can be seen in this raven's nest, putting the birds and their young at risk of entanglement. 

Jackdaw collecting  strands of plastic nautical rope as nesting material.

This jackdaw was found hanging out of her nest by string nesting material wrapped around her leg. She had been there for 8 hours before we were contacted and  one of our volunteers rescued her. She was suffering from life-threatening dehydration, but after some intensive care she survived. 

This Herring Gull was found suffering from hypothermia after becoming covered in used cooking oil. He was also tangled in fishing line! It took some intensive care, several washes and then some time in an outside pool before he was fit to be released. 

This gull was also found covered in cooking oil, as was a peregrine falcon who did not survive. DEFA took the body of the peregrine to test the oil and confirmed that it was vegetable oil. They suspect that a business has been illegally dumping their used oil and ask that anyone with any information gets in touch.


Lead shot is often used to kill "gamebirds" such as pheasants, and "pest" species such as crows. Any pellets that miss their mark may be eaten by foraging birds who mistake them for the grit they eat to aid digestion, and cause lead poisoning. Birds who are shot but not picked up, or manage to escape, may be eaten by predators or scavengers such as birds of prey and the lead shot will again cause lead poisoning. 

This carrion crow was found in Douglas dragging himself along the ground by his wings. He had open fractures of both legs caused by shotgun pellets (pictured above after being removed), and he had to be euthanised because another pellet had passed through his intestines and caused peritonitis. 

This gull was spotted  with strands of plastic rope wrapped around both of his legs, joining them together. We were unable to catch him and do not know what happened to him. 

Pigeons in towns often have string, thread and even human hair wrapped around their feet.  We managed to save this bird's foot by painstakingly removing all the thread, but permanent nerve damage had been done and the bird never regained the full use of his foot. He could walk and perch perfectly well despite this, so we released him. 

This swan was found with signs of lead poisoning in Douglas harbour. We took her to the vet, who managed to stabilise her on a drip and found that she was extremely underweight and anaemic. Sadly she died while still at the vet. 

This mallard was found suffering from signs of lead poisoning by the river in Peel, where the silt is known to be contaminated by heavy metals and other pollutants. He made a full recovery after a few weeks. 

Another gull with part of his leg missing. 

Of course, litter and pollution affect all of our wildlife, not just birds. Seals are often seen  with fishing gear attached to them - partly because some anglers and fishermen feed their throwbacks to them so they have learned to associate humans with food, and learn to actively seek out anglers and fishing boats. 

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