- Scientists don't know why but officially suspect the
die-off of Shearwaters was caused by, (are you ready for this?) "STARVATION." I
suppose the Shearwaters were too old and too tired to eat! Reminds me
of the hundreds of Flamingos in the Bahamas who all dropped dead of 'old
- UNDIAGNOSED DIE-OFF, SHEARWATERS - USA (FLORIDA)
- ProMed Mail
- Source Florida Today
- By Jim Waymer
- Hundreds of dead seabirds washed ashore this week and
dozens more were found dying on beaches spanning almost the entire Florida
- No one knows why, but scientists suspect starvation.
Frantic beachcombers dropped off about 130 greater shearwaters -- gull-like
birds that prefer the open ocean -- to Brevard County rescue centers in
the past 3 days. The die-off of birds ranged about 300 miles (about 483
km), from Hobe Sound in Martin County to South Ponte Vedra Beach in St.
- Scientists suspect recent winds and currents disrupted
the birds' food fish supply. But they also plan tests to rule out algal
toxins, bird flu, parasites, metals, and other common causes of seabird
- "The preliminary findings indicate starvation,"
said Wendy Quigley, spokeswoman with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
in St. Petersburg. "We're basically seeing emaciated birds."
- The institute received reports of at least 200 carcasses
along the East Coast since Saturday [16 Jun 2007].
- "As only one species appears to be affected, and
the sick and dead birds have similar symptoms, we believe the seabirds
are suffering from the same ailment," said Dan Wolf, research biologist
at the institute.
- A similar but much less severe shearwater die-off happened
- Shearwaters are one of the few birds that breed in the
south and migrate north. They loop the Atlantic, 1st breeding on South
Atlantic islands, then heading up the eastern seaboard of South America
and North America around this time of year, ultimately crossing the Atlantic
in late summer. Storms at sea can weaken, dehydrate, sicken, or kill them.
They feed on fish and squid, diving from great heights to chase their prey
underwater with partly open wings and paddling feet.
- Local birders have been chatting online this week about
all the shearwaters they see flying south -- the wrong way for the birds'
usual summer migration -- in what the observers believe is a desperate
search for food. "There's been a lot of buzz," said David Simpson,
a state park service specialist at St. Sebastian River Preserve. He suspects
sparsely scattered tuna may be contributing to the die-off. Fishermen in
South Florida recently have reported difficulty finding schools of tuna
because strong easterly winds dispersed the fish. The shearwaters follow
the schools of tuna because the larger fish scare smaller bait fish to
the surface, where shearwaters can snatch them.
- People have been flooding animal rehabilitation centers
along most of Florida's East Coast with dying shearwaters. At least 120
in 3 days were brought to the Florida Wildlife Hospital and Sanctuary in
Palm Shores. Half were dead days later.
- "It's difficult to test enough to isolate the problem,"
Sue Small, the hospital's director, said over squabbles from about 50 shearwaters
in the sanctuary's cages. About 10 shearwaters were brought to the Wildlife
Care Center in Canaveral Groves in the past few days. All died. The center
fielded calls about 10 other sickly shearwaters that it referred to state
- "This has got to be something big with all of them
dropping dead," said Jennifer Sypien, president and director of the
Wildlife Care Center. She recently treated birds with botulism and heartworm-like
parasites but didn't know if that's what's killing the shearwaters. "I
haven't heard of any of them surviving," she said. "It's a tragedy.
One after another is just dropping dead." Small said usually only
10 to 15 percent can be saved. "We hate not to try," she said,
"even though we don't have a very good success rate."
- The die-off is reminiscent of March 2003, when about
200 gannets washed in either dead or starving on Brevard beaches. The cause
was never determined, but some fishermen guessed a temporary lack of bait
- Harmful algae blooms also can cause bait fish declines
or can emit toxins that kill birds. No such blooms have been detected this
week in Florida. And no beach advisories or warnings of high bacteria levels
have been issued this week in Brevard.
- Nonetheless, Mendy Gaither of Salisbury, N.C., worried
Tuesday [19 Jun 2007] about the water off Satellite Beach. "We kept
seeing the dead birds," Gaither said. "There doesn't seem to
be that many birds here."
- Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD
- Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics
- Univ of West Indies
- Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message
- Also my new website:
- Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
- Go with God and in Good Health