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In 1996, type C avian botulism killed over 10,000 pelicans and nearly 10,000 other fish-eating birds at the Salton Sea in southern California. Although botulism had been previously documented in waterbirds at the Sea, this die-off was unusual in that it involved primarily fish-eating birds. The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorynchos) was the species with the greatest mortality in 1996. Since 1996, mortality has recurred every year but losses have declined (<2,000 birds/year), with relatively more Brown Pelicans (P. occidentalis) than White Pelicans afflicted. In 2000, morbidity and mortality of Brown Pelicans with type C botulism (1311) approached the numbers afflicted in 1996 (2034). In recent years, mortality reached a peak earlier in the summer, July and August, in contrast to 1996 when mortality reached a peak in September. An exotic fish species, tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus), has been implicated as the source of toxin for birds at Salton Sea, but the source of toxin for fish is unknown.
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Type C botulism in pelicans and other fish-eating birds at the Salton Sea