CROW received two dozen birds in two weeks

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Sanibel

The Clinic for Wildlife Rehabilitation (CROW) saw two dozen bird patients in two weeks. Many of these birds are being treated for symptoms of red tide or cyanobacterial poisoning, but experts say this isn’t just happening on Sanibel Island.

When looking at a red tide map for southwest Florida, it appears to be quiet. But the bird populations of southwest Florida are telling a very different story. Joanna Fitzgerald is the director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Southwest Florida Preserve. “I can tell you last week that we had four patients admitted to the hospital with symptoms of poisoning. So, yes, we have cormorants. We had an adult brown pelican that just came in this morning and it has poisoning,” Fitz Gerald said.

Red tide map on January 7

The Conservancy isn’t the only group seeing a shortage right now. Sanibel’s CROW clinic has received 26 birds showing signs of poisoning in the past few weeks.

Alison Charney Hussey is the Executive Director of the CROW Clinic. “We’ve seen less than six brown and white pelicans come in over the past week, and they’re experiencing red tides,” Hersey said.

“They came to us really badly, so people suspected there might be some sort of bacterial problem in addition to short toxicity or red tide poisoning,” Hussey said.

Eric Milbrandt is Director of the Marine Laboratory for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. “Their patients are not from one particular place. They are really indicators of food web conditions, associated with red tides,” Milbrandt said.

Experts warn that just because we can’t see a red tide in the bay doesn’t mean it’s not penetrating the food web. “Birds eat mostly fish, which are part of the food web and feed on smaller fish or invertebrates that accumulate toxins,” Milbrandt said.

“Because some of the animals are eating karenia, dinoflagellates, they’re consuming the toxin, and it’s becoming part of their tissues,” Milbrandt said.

And the poisoning doesn’t just affect animals in the Bay Area. “In other areas, not just the Bay Area, but you know, if you use pesticides in grassy communities and things like that, you get toxins,” Fitzgerald said.

That tangled web is now making the bird sick.

The CROW Clinic suspects bacteria play a role in disease in birds. They have been sent to the University of Georgia for evaluation. Results have not yet been published.

“We haven’t had those results yet, but you know, we want the best,” Hussey said.

More research is needed on the different contributors to poisoning, Fitzgerald said.

Copyright 2022 Fort Myers Broadcasting Corporation. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.



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