Avian Botulism

A few weeks after the count at McGulpin Point I walked the beach of Trails End Bay and found a dead Double-crested Cormorant washed up on shore. I took a photo of it and posted it on iNaturalist thinking it would be a good idea to document the fatality. The next day I saw someone commented that the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council would probably like to know about the bird for their avian botulism monitoring program. A few days later I became the volunteer avian botulism surveyor for Trails End Bay and McGulpin Point. Avian botulism is a disease in birds caused by eating fish that were poisoned by toxins released by naturally occurring bacteria. The bacteria release an unhealthy level of toxin in response to ecosystem disruptions possibly tied to the invasion of species like zebra mussels. Mass die offs of birds from avian botulism were very rare until 2006 when an outbreak occurred in northern Michigan, now outbreaks occur more regularly. The shores are monitored for dead birds and reported to the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council so toxicology tests can be performed to understand if an outbreak is occurring. Bird die offs from avian botulism occur in the fall so now is the best time to be a volunteer.

If you find a dead bird on the beach in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan call the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council:  (231) 347-1181

For more information: https://www.watershedcouncil.org/volunteer-avian-botulism-monitoring.html

Dead Cormorant iNat Observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94633259

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