Mystery of dead birds

2014-10-07 00:00

WHY are Howick’s birds dying?

Dead birds with no visible injuries have puzzled the Howick community in recent weeks.

Pigeons, doves, bulbuls and weavers have been spotted lying dead on pavements and in backyards around Howick.

Residents of Howick and members of the Birdlife KZN Midlands Committee have said they are both concerned about and clueless to the sudden cause of death of birds in the area.

Chairperson of the Birdlife Committee, Drummond Densham, said he has spotted several dead birds in the area but has no idea why they died.

“It has been a dry winter but I don’t think it is that. I am at a loss. I found four dead birds in my garden in the past three weeks. That has never happened before,” said Densham.

“The birds I have found are a bit thin but I don’t understand this because there are so many feeding stations and bird baths around Howick,” said Densham.

However, centre manager for FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Roz Marais says that there might be a simple answer to this puzzle.

Marais said the deaths were most likely caused by the disease, Trichomoniasis, common among pigeons and doves in the spring, especially after a harsh winter.

The disease affects the respiratory system, as well as causing severe gastrointestinal disease, which according to Marais is similar to thrush.

“If a bird is already weak, the disease becomes too much for the bird’s system,” said Marais.

Marais said healthy birds may contract the disease, but if the bird’s system is not already compromised, it will survive.

Small animal veterinarian Martin de Scally said it is best not to speculate and wait until results from the birds’ post-mortems are released.

“Post-mortems need to be done as quickly as possible. If for example, the cause of death is liver failure, an investigation needs to be done.

“What is the cause and where is it from?” said De Scally.

De Scally said it was important to avoid any hype but at the same time, treat the matter seriously as there is no telling what the results from the post-mortem will be.

Manager and senior inspector at the uMngeni SPCA, Dudu Abraham, said they would be sending a corpse to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to determine the cause of death.

“We don’t have much to go on but we are asking the community to bring the dead birds in, instead of disposing them,” said Abraham.

With the cause of the birds’ deaths unknown, Abraham said it would be wise to treat these incidents as unusual.


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