what about the article I read in the newspaper about the sunflower farmers
in the Midwest wanting to poison the redwing black birds? rice laced with
arsenic on the edges of their fields of sunflowers? the farmers are sick of
the red wings eating their crop. I was horrified and thought maybe they
would get too much resistance from birders etc. to be bold enough to do this
deed. of course the rice would be eaten by: mice, rats, etc and up into the
food chain. robyn flatley
>From: "Susan L. Swindell" <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: duck/geese die-offs
>Date: Tue, Nov 19, 2002, 6:48 PM
> Rather grim news to share. This article was passed to me from a friend who
> works documenting West Nile cases.
> West Nile virus may be killing raptors by the thousands
> Massive die-off of birds strikes Midwest
> Sunday, October 20, 2002
> By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
> Thousands of hawks, eagles, kestrels, falcons and owls have died in recent
> months in a swath of the United States from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico
> and Nebraska east through Ohio into Pennsylvania.
> West Nile virus was-and still is-a prime suspect in the raptor deaths. But
> tests on some of the dead birds show they were not infected, and avian
> experts are investigating other factors that could be acting alone or in
> combination with the virus to bring the big birds down.
> Southwestern Pennsylvania appears to be on the edge of the massive and
> mysterious raptor die-off that has taken a tremendous toll on birds in the
> broad Midwest but, for reasons that are still unclear, have resulted in few
> raptor deaths and affected fewer species from the Appalachian Mountains to
> the East Coast.
> Large numbers of crows and blue jays and a few red-tailed hawks, great
> horned owls and kestrels have died of West Nile in the East, but it's
> nothing like the toll in the Midwest, including southwestern Pennsylvania.
> "We've lost a great horned owl we use for educational programs to what we
> believe is West Nile, and also a red-tailed hawk," said Rozanne Wilson,
> director of the Pennsylvania Wildlife Center in Penn Hills. "Luckily, two
> birds-a short-eared owl and a screech owl-in cages right next to them didn't
> get it."
> She said another great horned owl and three of five hawks that were brought
> to the center while displaying classic West Nile symptoms-low body weight,
> inability to walk straight or identify food, head twitches-also died. The
> other two hawks are recovering and could be released soon.
> "It looks like West Nile but we don't know for sure," Wilson said.
> "Whatever it is, it's hit us hard."
> Patricia Bright, director of the pesticides and birds program for the
> American Bird Conservancy in Plains, Va., said her organization guessed that
> the number of dead raptors was in the thousands.
> "But there are no hard numbers," she added. "And wherethey do have them
> they're usually dramatically understated because sick birds sequester
> themselves and dead birds are hard to find.
> "The real concern is what effect this will have on long-term raptor
> populations. The ones with high reproductive rates will be OK, but the
> concern comes when birds like the California Condor, which are already
> existing in low numbers, get it."
> Birds serve as hosts for West Nile virus, which is spread by mosquitoes to
> other birds as well as to humans, horses, squirrels and dogs. The virus can
> cause encephalitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal
> cord, but only a very small percentage of humans who contract the disease
> suffer any ill effects. Many birds also contract West Nile, but only a small
> percentage die.
> The virus cannot be spread from person to person or from birds to humans.
> While many of the dead birds have tested positive for West Nile virus,
> others have not. Even birds that display West Nile symptoms have tested
> negative for the virus.
> Wildlife Works Inc., an animal rehabilitation center in Youngwood, Fayette
> County, has taken in 29 raptors since July and had 17 die. Ten of the birds
> were sent to state labs for testing, but only one of the six test results
> returned to the center so far was positive for West Nile.
> "We're still waiting for the other results but so far we don't have the
> information to make sense of what's happening here," said Beth Shoaf, a
> wildlife rehabilitator. "Something has gone on out there that is outside of
> the norm. We'reseeking other diagnostic help."
> Shoaf said the neurological symptoms displayed by the birds-head tremors,
> difficulty swallowing, inability to recognize food-are also suggestive of
> exposure to pesticides or some other environmental toxin.
> Some longtime observers of raptors are blaming the Hippoboscid fly- actually
> a group of bird parasites also known as louse flies or flat flies. The
> flies proliferated because of last year's mild winter and infested birds of
> prey in unusually large numbers this summer. The flies feed on blood in the
> quill of emerging feathers on large birds.
> "We want to be able to deal with the situation, whatever it is," Shoaf said.
> "It would be nice to establish some sort of research team to document the
> clinical signs and find out what's happening."
> A fistful of theories
> At the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in central Pennsylvania, the annual fall
> raptor migration is in full swing with scarcely a ruffled feather. There
> have been no reports of raptor mortality and the "kettles"-swirling flocks
> of hawks riding the columns of warm air rising against Kittatinny
> Mountain-have been as full as or fuller than ever.
> "I've had a lot of questions, but we haven't seen any decline. Migration
> counts have been incredible," said Mary Linkevich, a Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
> spokeswoman. Sightings of bald eagles are on record pace for the year and
> the 31 peregrine falcons sighted Oct. 5 broke the old one-day record of 11
> established in 1937.
> "We're very pleased with what we're seeing here," she said. "Unfortunately
> we have heard about the raptor deaths and know about the declining numbers
> in other areas."
> Why raptors are dying in greater numbers in the Midwest than they are in the
> East is a question still in search of an answer, but one that's hatched many
> One is that the West Nile virus could be mutating as it moves west,
> developing a strain that is more deadly to bird populations. Another is that
> bird populations in the Midwest are genetically different than those in the
> East and for some reason more susceptible to West Nile virus.
> A third theory holds that the birds, already weakened by West Nile, are
> being killed off by other viruses, bacteria or pesticides. Or it could be
> that different species of mosquitoes in the Midwest may target raptors over
> other birds.
> Yet another theory holds that raptors in the East have long been exposed to
> Eastern equine encephalitis, a virus related to West Nile, and have
> developed an immunity to it.
> "There's a whole lot of variables out there and a lot more questions than
> answers," Bright said. "Something else other than just West Nile is going on
> out there, but we don't know what it is."
> Chuck Tague, a Pittsburgh area naturalist and publisher of Nature Observer
> News, said his concern was that migrant birds will become infected with West
> Nile virus as they move through the area.
> "If they spread the disease to other birds, that could well weaken them and
> affect their migration next spring," he added.
> Earlier this month, a red-tailed hawk Tague often featured in his nature
> talks died after exhibiting West Nile symptoms.
> "I'm afraid we're just seeing the beginning of something here," he said.