Traverse City Record-Eagle

Latest News - Mobile

November 24, 2013

Avian botulism deaths decline

TRAVERSE CITY -- The common loon, horned grebe and scores of other waterfowl briefly take respite in Michigan waters as they migrate south.

Their stops too often ended here in recent years as many fell victim to a paralytic disease and washed up dead along Lake Michigan beaches. This year it appears they’ve largely evaded that serious health threat.

Experts said avian botulism claimed far fewer waterfowl this year than last year -- so far, about 420 dead birds have been found on the shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes, compared to about 1,000 at the same time last year.

Overall, at least 3,947 birds were found dead along the Michigan shoreline in 2012, 1,500 of those in Sleeping Bear Dunes. The lower death toll in 2013 pleased those who study avian botulism.

“This year was just beautiful,” Dan Ray, the avian botulism monitoring project lead at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, said.

Botulism enters the marine food chain in the Great Lakes, and birds that eat fish and bottom-feeders, especially the invasive gobi fish, are susceptible. The bacteria cause a bird’s nervous system to deteriorate, making infected birds unable to fold wings or hold up their heads. Eventually the bacteria make it hard for birds to breath and their hearts fail.

This year about 30 dead loons were discovered at Sleeping Bear Dunes, compared to 500 last year.

Lower infection levels are a real boon for the loons, which have a longer maturation cycle and lower reproduction rate than most other birds.

“It’s really healthy for the bird species' reproduction that adults that are capable of reproduction aren’t getting taken out of the population so they can go out and have a good reproduction cycle,” said Mark Breederland, a Michigan Sea Grant educator.

Tom Cooley is a wildlife biologist and pathologist at the Department of Natural Resource’s Wildlife Disease Lab in Lansing. He tests dead birds for botulism, and mainly sees infected adult loons.

Text Only

Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Associated Press Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot