Ducks Get Sick Too!

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When it comes to getting sick, wild waterfowl—which include ducks, geese, and swans—are a lot like people. We are all vulnerable to a wide variety of diseases.

Some diseases that affect waterfowl, such as avian botulism, have been recognized for many decades as a major cause of death. Others, such as duck plague, are relative newcomers to the known roster of waterfowl diseases.

Unfortunately, the number of waterfowl diseases as well as disease-breeding conditions are on the increase. As human development has expanded and encroached on wetlands, more and more waterfowl have been forced into less and less habitat. The resulting crowding can promote the spread of infectious disease caused by toxicants and other noninfectious agents.

Although millions of waterfowl die of disease each year, it is often difficult to "see" the disease process occurring. Sick and dying birds usually seek cover to hide, and predators and scavengers eventually devour most of them. When disease becomes epidemic (a disease epidemic in animals is called an epizootic) and sick and dead birds become too numerous for predators and scavengers to eliminate, the disease process becomes far more noticeable.

The diseases described in this booklet are among the most common causes of death in wild waterfowl, and include examples of those cause by bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, and toxic substances.

Suggested Citation

Windingstad, R.M., and Laitman, C.J., 1988, Ducks get sick too!: U.S. Geological Survey Unnumbered Series,

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Avian Cholera
  • Avian Botulism
  • Duck Plague
  • Parasites
  • Fungal Diseases
  • Lead Poisoning
  • Diagnosis
  • Management
  • Research

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Unnumbered Series
Title Ducks Get Sick Too!
DOI 10.3133/70006703
Year Published 1988
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Madison, WI
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description 14 p.
Country United States
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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