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Old 12-09-2010, 08:24 PM   #1
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Default west nile devasted US bird populations

West Nile Devastated U.S. Bird Species

Up to 45 percent of crows died after the virus arrived, with robins, chickadees, and eastern bluebirds not far behind....

That's because mosquitoes that carry West Nile fare best around people, where sources of stagnant water used for breeding—including sewers, old tires, and forgotten watering cans—abound, LaDeau said

We've been talking about feeder birds in another thread, and I remembered seeing this article. West Nile devasted wild bird populations, especially those that hung out around humans because the mosquitoes are common around human habitations.

Interestingly, both bird and human cases peaked in 2002-2004, with human cases numbering in the 3K-4K range, and in the past few years have fallen to 500-1000/yr.

Do any of you that have feeders and watch birds care to comment on any observations you have made in the past ten years of particular ups and downs in bird species populations that you have noticed that may be related to West Nile or to other factors?
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Old 12-09-2010, 09:54 PM   #2
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I'd be interested in the conversation on the other thread if you don't mind providing the link. I read an article about NOT feeding birds because it is unnatural for them to congregate in such numbers and not move on--interacting more closely than they would in nature and spreading communicable diseases. I've been wanting to bring it up here. Maybe someone already has.

I love to see birds in the yard, but hate to do something that may be harmful to them.
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Old 12-10-2010, 02:13 PM   #3
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Maybe this is the other thread she was talking aobut, Our Health depends upon Biodiversity. Mosquitoes aren't the only thing that fare best around people.... starlings and house sparrows and pigeons do too and those birds have a 0% mortality rate once infected.... , West Nile Virus, "Birds serve as the host for the virus, which is spread by mosquitoes to other birds and animals. So far, it has been shown that only in birds can the virus reach the level of viremia to reinfect mosquitoes...(2) the virus thrives at B70C, so is not killed by freezing; and (3) there are some birds, e.g., house sparrows, that can act as asymptomatic carriers of the disease. The disease has been found in several mammal species this past year (e.g., squirrels in the mid-west), more so than in previous years, and two species of reptiles." West Nile Virus is transmitted via mosquito bites from infected birds and animals to humans. We've got hundreds of thousands of "carriers" we're letting fly around. There was some good advice at that site, "To avoid mosquito bites, wear long pants, long sleeves, use a DEET-containing repellant on skin and clothes when working outside, and avoid being outdoors at high mosquito-activity times of the day like dawn, dusk and early evening. Remove breeding opportunities for mosquitoes where water collects. A bigger danger than the virus itself is over-reaction on the part of the authorities or the public and the resulting decision to do widespread spraying of insecticides - as happened in NY in 1999 and Louisiana and Illinois in 2002. This has the potential to cause far more harm than the virus itself, especially to birds but also to humans. The risk to wetlands organisms and other insects (and the birds, plants, and economies that depend upon them) is very high, depending on the type of pesticide used." Since most communities stopped spraying and....since most of our native birds die once they're infected with WNV.... they did sorta miss the obvious of calling for the humane destruction of sparrows, pigeons, and starlings.... all introduced species.... all formally identified as invasive.... all flying around year to year.....
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Old 12-11-2010, 03:31 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by dapjwy View Post
I'd be interested in the conversation on the other thread if you don't mind providing the link. I read an article about NOT feeding birds because it is unnatural for them to congregate in such numbers and not move on--interacting more closely than they would in nature and spreading communicable diseases. I've been wanting to bring it up here. Maybe someone already has.

I love to see birds in the yard, but hate to do something that may be harmful to them.
Dapjwy, I was just talking about the thread linrose started recently http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/for...e-feeders.html . We were talking about what birds were coming to our feeders.

You raise an interesting point, though, which I'll segue over to that thread I think. Should we be feeding birds since it makes them congregate and can spread disease?

West Nile is an interesting disease. It was present at very low levels in the US before 2000, on the order of less than 100 cases a year, then suddenly spread to 4K-5K cases a year over the next several years in a wave that started on the east coast and spread west. Hysteria raged, as 'Lib describes. Now, for reasons that are unclear, the disease has settled down to an endemic level of 500-1000 cases/year, fairly uniformly spread across the US. Just for comparison, influenza hospitalizes 200K people every year and kills 40K+ every year, yet seldom causes the hysteria that West Nile did.

People don't talk about it anymore, dead birds don't get tested anymore, it has fallen off the radar, even though it hasn't gone away.

I remember noticing a distinct drop in the crow population in the area of California I was living in during 2003-5 time period. I have moved since then so I don't have any sense if the population subsequently rebounded. Any thoughts from those of you who have been watching birds in the same location for ten years or so - did you see a drop and a rebound, was it not noticeable, or was it too complicated to sort out from all the other things from year to year that change the numbers of birds?
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Old 12-11-2010, 07:50 PM   #5
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Dapjwy, I was just talking about the thread linrose started recently http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/for...e-feeders.html . We were talking about what birds were coming to our feeders.

You raise an interesting point, though, which I'll segue over to that thread I think. Should we be feeding birds since it makes them congregate and can spread disease?
...
I think I found it there and responded. I wasn't sure if it should be a separate thread or not. Also, I did try searching for the article, but was not able to find it again. I thought I *might* have e-mailed the link to myself--I think I stumbled upon it by accident while searching something else at work, but when I searched my e-mail it didn't show up.
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Old 12-11-2010, 09:28 PM   #6
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People don't talk about it anymore, dead birds don't get tested anymore, it has fallen off the radar, even though it hasn't gone away.
Unfortunately, my county still tests and still sprays selected areas when tests are positive.

The are so many variables, I couldn't guess if there have been any bird population changes. I'm not aware of any absences in the 7 years I've been here. One thing I have noticed is that there is a pair of ravens in the area, and this is south of their "normal" range.
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Old 12-11-2010, 10:46 PM   #7
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as usual, I am thinking about this in a weird way.

I am thinking, if there was a massive decrease in bird populations (by roughly half let's say) due to a virus this tends to imply that the remaining birds have some sort of immunity. Or at least the virus is non lethal to these animals.

If this is the case, the virus will either continue without damaging the organism or no longer affect the organism. In either case the population should recover *providing* habitat and other variables permit it to do so.

Ie the niche the bird exists within, still exists. If the habitat was gone, or its food source, or its nesting ground etc etc, then this means trouble. If it is disease, this should mean far less damage.
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Old 12-12-2010, 10:40 AM   #8
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I've been in my current house for 8 years, but in the area for over 20. When West Nile was pretty rampant, the Chickadees seemed like they had disappeared. Within the past 3-4 years, I am seeing more Chickadees. But, severe weather has an affect on them, too. They can't last every long without water and food.

Periodically, I take a chlorox wipe and wipe down the bird feeders. Then, I take a clean cloth with just water and wipe off the chlorox.
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Old 12-12-2010, 11:50 AM   #9
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Hmmm, I'll be honest, I haven't followed the West Nile situation much.

Your Bird Observations Matter!
By Kevin J. McGowan, Ph.D.

From http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/science-stories/past-stories/the-great-backyard-bird-count-and-west-nile-virus

" Just because we see lots of birds dying does not necessarily mean that the populations will be affected. Millions of birds die each year from a variety of causes. If they don't die of disease, then a predator might get them. If the predator misses them, they might die in a storm as they are migrating over the ocean. And so on. Often the total mortality in a bird population remains remarkably constant from year to year, despite large changes in individual mortality sources."

The author goes on to state monitoring programs, including citizen science programs like the Christmas Bird Count and Project Feeder Watch, will continue to provide essential sources of information.
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Old 12-12-2010, 03:54 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Runmede View Post
I've been in my current house for 8 years, but in the area for over 20. When West Nile was pretty rampant, the Chickadees seemed like they had disappeared. Within the past 3-4 years, I am seeing more Chickadees. But, severe weather has an affect on them, too. They can't last every long without water and food.

Periodically, I take a chlorox wipe and wipe down the bird feeders. Then, I take a clean cloth with just water and wipe off the chlorox.
Good idea about the chlorox wipe.

I finally took some time to watch the birds coming to my feeder. There were at least half dozen chickadees. That made me smile.

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Hmmm, I'll be honest, I haven't followed the West Nile situation much.

...
I didn't realize West Nile was a problem either. From what I remember reading it was disease in general that the article was about.
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