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Offline Don_1

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What killed these birds?
« on: 05/01/2011 08:22:52 »
A few days ago some 5000 Red Wing Blackbirds fell dead out of the Arkansas sky. Now 500 more have been found dead in neighbouring Louisiana and more deaths have been reported in Kentucky. Other birds affected by this sudden death included Grackles, Starlings and Brown-headed Cowbirds.

New year celebratory fireworks are being considered as a possible suspect as are hailstones. PM's on some birds in Arkansas concluded that the cause of death was external trauma.

What do you think caused this tragedy and can we do anything to avoid future repeats?


 

Offline imatfaal

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #1 on: 05/01/2011 13:39:43 »
After the cultural revolution, the PRC 'declared war' on several animal pests - I hope it is not an urban myth, but I heard that against the sparrow, entire villages would stop the birds roosting for an entire night.  These small creatures with a tip-top metabolic rate just could not make it through the night and the next day having missed their roost and died in entire hosts.  Is is possible that a similar disturbance to the quotidian regimen (by fireworks and perhaps other means) caused the bird deaths in USA?
 

Offline rosy

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #2 on: 05/01/2011 13:57:35 »
I believe one of the current hypotheses is that the birds were startled from their roosts by the fireworks and, having little or no night vision, simply died of flying into things (trees, walls, possibly each other) in their panic. Apparently post mortem examination of the birds by the local vetinary pathologist indicated that they'd suffered physical injuries, which suggests it wasn't just that their metabolism packed up for lack of sleep.
(I don't have a reference.. it was on radio 4 (BBC) yesterday evening, either PM or the 6 o'clock news).
 

Offline Don_1

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #3 on: 05/01/2011 15:28:25 »
The suggestion that this may have been caused by fireworks let off in celebration of the new year might explain the Arkansas deaths, but not those which have died after the new year celebrations in Louisiana and Kentucky. But even so, why would this have been restricted to Arkansas? Why did it not happen in Georgia, Texas, New York or even London, for that matter.

Hailstones, resulting from recent storms in the region, might be a more likely culprit, but then the question would be, why were the birds flying in such foul weather? (unintentional pun).

It should also be noted that an estimated 80,000 Drum Fish also suddenly died in the Arkansas River.

Probably unrelated, there were also 10's of thousands of dead fish washed up on the Maryland  Chesapeake Bay estuary recently.
 

Offline RD

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #4 on: 05/01/2011 16:12:26 »
« Last Edit: 05/01/2011 16:15:51 by RD »
 

Offline Geezer

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Offline CliffordK

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #6 on: 05/01/2011 22:27:58 »
(I don't have a reference.. it was on radio 4 (BBC) yesterday evening, either PM or the 6 o'clock news).
Hmmm,
They broadcast BBC on NPR in the USA...  Do they broadcast NPR & PBS on BBC in the UK?

I heard the story about internal hemorrhaging caused by running into things on NPR too. 

I suppose I find it a little surprising.  I've had birds fly into windows before.  It will usually knock them out for a few minutes, but they usually get up and fly away. 

I wonder if anybody had the bright idea of firing a percussion cannon directly into a tree where the birds were roosting (kind of like dropping dynamite into a lake).

------

Well, I see it is both fish and birds in small towns in Arkansas.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6176412/dead_birds_in_arkansas_were_preceded.html?cat=7

I've never heard about "Drum Fish" before.  But, I wouldn't be surprised if someone dropped some big "firecrackers" into a lake...  what I said a few minutes before I saw this report.  Although it is odd that it is a single species. 

-----

This does all remind me a bit of a TV show last year called "Flash Forward".
« Last Edit: 05/01/2011 22:42:30 by CliffordK »
 

Offline rosy

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #7 on: 05/01/2011 22:59:22 »
Quote
They broadcast BBC on NPR in the USA...  Do they broadcast NPR & PBS on BBC in the UK?
I don't think so... I guess you get bits of the World Service?
 

Offline Airthumbs

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #8 on: 06/01/2011 04:04:42 »
Both of the species mentioned eat insects as part of their staple diet.  The birds are going to have physical injuries if they fell from the sky! 

What if an insecticide has been used that caused the insects to all die off in large batches making them easy pickings?

Have any toxicologists got involved with this yet and if not why not?

Drum fish are very aggressive and this might explain why they appear to be the only fish species effected in any large numbers.  Also Drum fish eat other fish so exacerbating any toxins through eating the insects and other dying fish that have become an easy meal.

The reason it might be a local phenomenon is that new insecticides would be tested at local levels.

Just a theory  ;D
 

Offline Don_1

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #9 on: 06/01/2011 10:00:13 »
Autopsies carried out on the Arkansas birds have revealed that death was caused by blunt trauma while in mid air. These injuries were not caused by the birds dropping out of the sky. Toxicology has proved there to be no poisons involved.

The Drum Fish are thought to have died from some disease, not poisoning. See this.

In addition to these incidents in the southern states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Kentucky and the Chesapeake Bay incident in Maryland, there has now been a report of a similar incident, as Geezer pointed out, in Sweden and in the latest incident 100 tons of Sardines, Croaker and Catfish have been washed up dead along the Brazilian coastline near Paranaguá
 

Offline Variola

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #10 on: 06/01/2011 21:08:03 »
Both of the species mentioned eat insects as part of their staple diet.  The birds are going to have physical injuries if they fell from the sky! 

What if an insecticide has been used that caused the insects to all die off in large batches making them easy pickings?

Have any toxicologists got involved with this yet and if not why not?

Drum fish are very aggressive and this might explain why they appear to be the only fish species effected in any large numbers.  Also Drum fish eat other fish so exacerbating any toxins through eating the insects and other dying fish that have become an easy meal.

The reason it might be a local phenomenon is that new insecticides would be tested at local levels.

Just a theory  ;D

Why would insecticides designed to kill insects be toxic to birds? New insecticides are tested in labs way before they get trialled in the fields, and toxicity to animals higher up the food chain is usually picked up before field trials.
 

Offline Airthumbs

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #11 on: 06/01/2011 21:48:02 »
Variola, one of the problems associated with insecticides and pesticides is that they are individually tested as you say in the labs before field tests.  Unfortunately when you get several of these chemicals being used at the same time they can react with eathother. This effect is not tested for in the labs!

Some insecticides kill or harm other creatures in addition to those they are intended to kill. For example, birds may be poisoned when they eat food that was recently sprayed with insecticides or when they mistake insecticide granules on the ground for food and eat it. (Palmer, WE, Bromley, PT, and Brandenburg, RL. Wildlife & pesticides - Peanuts. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved on 14 October 2007.) Source; wikipedia-Insecticides

Some insecticides have been banned due to the fact that they are persistent toxins which have adverse effects on animals and/or humans. Examples; aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex and toxaphene.

Insecticides vary widely not only in effectiveness against target insects (which may develop resistance) but also in toxicity to nontarget species (including humans) and environmental effects. (Britannica Concise Encyclopedia: insecticide)

So Variola, I hope the above answers your question, the simple answer is that insecticides do effect and even kill other so called non target animals!

Don_1, I have to say I am bewildered as to how someone can tell if these birds were injured whilst being airborne! Let me explain myself; If a bird lost the ability to fly for whatever reason and then plummeted to earth striking the ground with some force, causing death, how would you tell the difference?  The bird that was hit by a mysterious blunt object in the sky would be exactly the same as the bird hit by a very large blunt object after falling, the ground!!!  In both cases internal haemorrhaging would be the cause of death except that my explanation does not require bird attacking mysterious airborne blunt objects!

On a further note; Karen Rowe, an ornithologist for the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry commission, said the incident is not that unusual and is often caused by a lightning strike or high-altitude hail. "Initial examinations of a few of the dead birds showed trauma. Whether or not this trauma was from the force of hitting the ground when they fell or from something that contacted them in the air, we don't know," Rowe said. (Source: CNN)

One more thing that I find interesting, on the Monday, 3rd January, a press release that is included in the above posts state that no poisons were discovered in the birds.  How do they know this when the results have not even been released yet from the labs and should be released on Friday 7th!!!
Also dozens of U.S. Environmental Services crews spent the day picking up the birds, walking between homes and climbing on roofs with protective hazmat suits and breathing masks, just a precaution? mmmmmmmmmm

« Last Edit: 06/01/2011 22:42:02 by Airthumbs »
 

Offline Variola

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #12 on: 06/01/2011 22:27:14 »
Quote
So Variola, I hope the above answers your question, the simple answer is that insecticides do effect and even kill other so called non target animals!
 

But you mention new pesticides, the ones you have cited are old compounds not anything new.
If a pesticide was to blame, it would have had a gradual toxic effect, which some birds being affected on the ground, not one where birds suddenly fall out of the air en mass.  ???
New chemicals are checked alongside known other well-used compounds in the lab, not least because not all insect activity is unwelcome, but also because of a financial consideration.
Toxicity to one species does not imply toxicity to another.

I do know a little about pesticides, I work with BT.
 

Offline Airthumbs

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #13 on: 06/01/2011 23:06:37 »
Varioloa, I am not saying that something that is toxic to one species is toxic to another I am saying that it might be. And evidence shows this to be the case.

You say you know a little about pesticides as you work with BT. I hope you are not referring to Britsh Telecommunications!

Also I know a little about pesticides too as my degree is related to this subject, maybe you should read this.... http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Pesticide#Dangers_of_pesticides

I also understand that there is a common practice of misuse involving pesticides by mixing them together.

Some pesticides as I am sure you know cause weakness and paralyses and are designed to work quickly to prevent bio-accumulation.  Could it be that something like that was responsible for what happened to the birds?
 

Offline Variola

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #14 on: 06/01/2011 23:43:04 »
Quote
You say you know a little about pesticides as you work with BT. I hope you are not referring to Britsh Telecommunications!
 

Not quite!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacillus_thuringiensis


Quote
Some pesticides as I am sure you know cause weakness and paralyses and are designed to work quickly to prevent bio-accumulation.  Could it be that something like that was responsible for what happened to the birds?   

If it had of been that, then there would have been more variability, and spread over a wider area. Birds would eat different amounts of insect and therefore different levels of any toxin. You would find birds on the ground near to the crops, some nearly dead, and it would happen over a slower time gradient, as more insects die and more birds eat them. Plus what works in an insect may not work in a bird, hence many birds can eat dead insects killed by insecticides and just poop the toxic matter out again.



 

Offline Airthumbs

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #15 on: 07/01/2011 03:46:42 »
Varilola, wow a genetic scientist  ;D  Do you have a theory on what might have happened?

Hopefully the results will be out later today on the toxicology reports and if non are present then we can eliminate toxins as a cause of the bird and fish deaths. 

Maybe it's a combination of shock making the birds take flight and hail.  I have not seen any meteorology reports on hail in that area at the time but I am sure someone will solve this puzzle.

Still I thought I was onto something  ;D  Thanks for your info.
 

Offline Variola

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #16 on: 07/01/2011 08:26:42 »
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Varilola, wow a genetic scientist 

Not quite! Still in training.

 
Quote
Do you have a theory on what might have happened?
   

Not a clue, other than I doubt it was anything like poisoning/toxicology because of the way they died.

Quote
Still I thought I was onto something   

Hey you still might be, just because I don't think it is, doesn't meant it wont be.




 

Offline Geezer

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #17 on: 07/01/2011 15:28:51 »
I work with BT.

I thought she was talking about people's bums  [:I]
 

Offline Airthumbs

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #18 on: 07/01/2011 16:54:02 »
After reading all the latest news reports on this, I would have to say that someone is definitely talking from bums!

Now they are saying the results might take up to a month.  Maybe Variola can confirm how long it takes to make some basic tests for toxins in an animal?

They have been tested for common pesticides and that turned up negative. 

This is a quote from one report pertaining to mass deaths of animals "Federal records show they happen on average every other day somewhere in North America. Usually, we don't notice them and don't try to link them to each other." Well that is a great attitude to have hey!! 

Some supposedly informed people have told news reporters that, "they died from flying into things at night".  Is it April fools or am I missing something here? Here is the obvious question that needs answering, does this place turn off all it's street lamps at night?  We are led to assume that this place is totally pitch black at night! What about all those external Christmas decorations the Americans are so famous for, the place would have been like Blackpool Illuminations! As it was new years eve I expect that a lot of people would have been up celebrating, making noise and also using the lights in their homes too.

To be honest I have a feeling there will never be an offical answer to this, call it just a feeling  ;D

 



 

Offline yor_on

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #19 on: 08/01/2011 04:21:07 »
I would go with "freak weather conditions" myself.

Not that it makes me happier, maybe a combination too, like fireworks setting them off in some cases, also there have been a lot of snow here the last years. That have to make it harder to survive for birds, so they probably was comparably weaker to years when we had less or no snow. What worries me if it will continue, not that I expect it :) sooner or later this freakish weather should change to a warmer climate as the warming keeps on, but then we have all that ice melting, and the golf stream possibly changing course or disappearing. I don't like it at all.
 

Offline Airthumbs

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #20 on: 08/01/2011 04:39:05 »
I would go with "freak weather conditions" myself.

I find it a little odd an animal that has been around for about 100 million years should succumb to something like the weather?
 

Offline yor_on

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #21 on: 08/01/2011 05:22:02 »
Depends on the severity I guess?
And it's not everyone, even if a lot locally.
It's only a guess though.
 

Offline Geezer

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #22 on: 08/01/2011 06:05:07 »
Depends on the severity I guess?
And it's not everyone, even if a lot locally.
It's only a guess though.


Own up Yoron. We know you were goofing around with your "experimental" fireworks.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6184100/more_dead_birds_falling_from_the_sky.html?cat=8
 

Offline Airthumbs

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What killed these birds?
« Reply #23 on: 08/01/2011 07:30:12 »
I have to admit I have always really felt for birds when fireworks are let off.  Poor things!! I imagine these innocent little creatures just trying to survive and we literally terrorize them.  [:-[]
 

Offline QuantumClue

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It's starting to get a little worrying.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/8246678/More-than-1000-turtle-doves-fall-from-the-sky-in-Italy-in-latest-mass-bird-death-case.html

''After cavalcades of dead birds and fish from Arkansas and Texas to Sweden and New Zealand, tests are being carried out on the bodies of turtle doves in Italy after hundreds rained down near Ravenna. ''


''For the last five days wildlife experts and officers from the forestry commission have picked up more than 1,000 turtle doves as well as other birds including pigeons.

Yesterday alone 300 corpses were recovered with all of them having a blue tinge to their beaks, which scientists say indicates poisoning or hypoxia which is lack of oxygen that can confuse animals''



 

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