Recurring waterbird mortalities and unusual etiologies

Edited by:
G.C. Boere, C.A. Galbraith, and David A. Stroud



Over the last decade, the National Wildlife Health Center of the United States Geological Survey has documented various largescale mortalities of birds caused by infectious and non-infectious disease agents. Some of these mortality events have unusual or unidentified etiologies and have been recurring. While some of the causes of mortalities have been elucidated, others remain in various stages of investigation and identification. Two examples are discussed: 1) Leyogonimus polyoon (Class: Trematoda), not found in the New World until 1999, causes severe enteritis and has killed over 15 000 American Coot Fulica americana in the upper mid-western United States. The geographic range of this parasite within North America is predicted to be limited to the Great Lakes Basin. 2) In the early 1990s, estimates of up to 6% of the North American population of the Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis died at Salton Sea, California, with smaller mortalities occurring throughout the 1990s. Birds were observed to have unusual preening behaviour, and to congregate at freshwater drains and move onto land. Suggested etiologies included interactions of contaminants, immuno-suppression, an unusual form of a bacterial disease, and an unknown biotoxin. During studies carried out from 2000 to 2003, Eared Grebe mortality did not approach the level seen in the early 1990s and, although bacteria were identified as minor factors, the principal cause of mortality remains undetermined. The potential population impact of these emerging and novel disease agents is currently unknown.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Conference publication
Recurring waterbird mortalities and unusual etiologies
Year Published:
Contributing office(s):
National Wildlife Health Center
p. 439-440
Larger Work Title:
Waterbirds Around the World: A Global Overview of the Conservation, Management, and Research of the World's Waterbird Flyways
Other Geospatial:
North America
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