Wary of wetlands

By Connie Orcutt • Published: September 1st, 2013
Category: Animal Airwaves

During the lazy days of summer, stagnant water can quickly become a soup of bacterial toxins. Before long, a quiet pond or swamp can turn into an avian nightmare.

Waterbirds like ducks and geese are especially at risk of succumbing to avian botulism. Problems start when Clostridium bacteria feed on carcasses and other organic matter in oxygen-poor bodies of water. As they grow, these bacteria make toxins. At the same time, flies produce maggots that ingest and concentrate the poisons. By the time a waterbird eats the fly maggots, its fate has been sealed.

A poisoned bird first loses the ability to fly, then the power to hold its neck up, giving avian botulism the nickname “limberneck.” As birds drown, more carcasses fuel the cycle.

We can help keep birds flying strong by controlling flies and removing carcasses and rotting vegetation from waterways.