Entire Irish populations of some seabirds could be wiped out by a virulent strain of bird flu, which is wreaking havoc among seabird populations in parts of the UK and continental Europe, according to bird-conservation charity Birdwatch Ireland.

It said the level of seabird loss in Britain due to bird flu is shocking and could lead to "the potential decimation of seabird populations on a scale that has not been seen before in our lifetimes".

Earlier this year, housing restrictions on commercial poultry flocks were lifted after a number of dispersed cases of avian flu in Ireland cleared up.

However a new case was confirmed in a wild bird in Co Kerry, according to the the latest Department of Agriculture avian influenza update.

A number of avian flu cases have also been confirmed in Northern Ireland in recent weeks.

In addition, the Department said large die-offs of several species of colonial breeding birds associated with avian influenza have been reported recently in the Netherlands, Scotland, Iceland, Norway, France and Greece.

Birdwatch Ireland called on the Government to urgently convene a meeting of key stakeholders to develop a response plan to what they say is a "growing threat" of the spread of the virus.

Dr Stephen Newton, senior seabird conservation officer with Birdwatch Ireland said Ireland has some of the biggest colonies of certain seabirds.

"It's frightening. There are three or four species where virtually the whole of the Irish - or sometimes the whole of the European population - nest at just one or two sites," he said.

"Our big fear is that these could be wiped out completely," Dr Newton added.

The charity has appealed to the public to report any dead or distressed wild bird to the Department of Agriculture.

The Department has warned the public to not to handle the birds and to also keep pets from coming into contact with them.

Reports can be submitted on the Avian Check website.