Wildlife Officials Probing
Bird Deaths In
South Carolina

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) -- South Carolina wildlife officials are warning residents and visitors to stay away from sick sea birds they may see on the shore.
The birds, many of which usually stay well offshore, are showing up by the dozens on South Carolina beaches and they are dead or dying.
South Carolina Natural Resources Department veterinarian Al Segars said the problem could be neurological and could be related to an offshore algae bloom.
But, he said, the uncertainty of the source of the birds' illnesses means people should call beach patrol or animal control officers.
"Don't take them home and try to nurse them back to health," Segars said Friday.
About 150 birds have been found from northern Georgia to Cape Hatteras, N.C., this week.
Most are greater shearwaters, though some are storm petrels and gannets. The ailment doesn't seem to be affecting typical shore birds including pelicans, gulls and terns, Segars said.
The birds that can walk typically stagger before collapsing and dying, Segars said.
But the die-off could be simply the typical mortality of the birds during migration. Onshore winds in recent days might be washing ashore sick and dying birds ashore that normally would have died in the water, Segars said.
Several of the birds have been sent to the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study lab in Georgia for testing.
Mysterious Greater Shearwater Deaths On Carolina Beaches
By Dr. Henry L. Niman, PhD
Recombinomics Commentary
June 18, 2005
Wildlife experts are investigating the deaths of more than 250 seabirds that have washed ashore at Carolinas beaches in the past week. <<
The strandings are particularly unusual because most of the birds were greater shearwaters, which spend their lives at sea, coming ashore only to breed.
This is the time of year when shearwaters migrate north, an arduous journey from their breeding islands off South Africa to the cold waters off New England and Greenland. Once their journeys begin, the birds' first brush with land is off the N.C. coast.
Biologists suspect unusual southeasterly winds in recent days blew exhausted or sick birds toward shore in the Carolinas and Georgia.
But some birds who reached the S.C. coast alive had stumbling, uncoordinated movements
Dead or neurologically impaired birds from South Africa are cause for concern. South Africa has been battling avian influenza for most of this year. An OIE report this month indicated ostriches were found to be H5 positive at over 100 farms in South Africa.
H5N1 bird flu can cause death or neurological problems. Last year there were also problems with H5 HPAI in ostriches in South Africa.
Testing of these birds for H5 antibodies would be useful
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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