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Mysterious Greater Shearwater Deaths on Carolina Beaches

Recombinomics Commentary
June 18, 2005

>>  Wildlife experts are investigating the deaths of more than 250 seabirds that have washed ashore at Carolinas beaches in the past week.

The strandings are particularly unusual because most of the birds were greater shearwaters, which spend their lives at sea, coming ashore only to breed.

This is the time of year when shearwaters migrate north, an arduous journey from their breeding islands off South Africa to the cold waters off New England and Greenland. Once their journeys begin, the birds' first brush with land is off the N.C. coast.

Biologists suspect unusual southeasterly winds in recent days blew exhausted or sick birds toward shore in the Carolinas and Georgia.

But some birds who reached the S.C. coast alive had stumbling, uncoordinated movements  <<

Dead or neurologically impaired birds from South Africa are cause for concern.  South Africa has been battling avian influenza for most of this year.  An OIE report this month indicated ostriches were found to be H5 positive at over 100 farms in South Africa.

H5N1 bird flu can cause death or neurological problems.  Last year there were also problems with H5 HPAI in ostriches in South Africa.

Testing of these birds for H5 antibodies would be useful

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