does red tide kill birds

The Eckerd College biology professor was visiting to check on the condition of certain seabirds as a Red Tide algae bloom rolled into Pinellas Countys iconic beaches. She saw a laughing gull just sitting on the sand, and she walked up to it. Instead of flying away, it didnt move, not even when someone came to pick it up.

As with other birds shed seen staggering around as if they had vertigo, she suspects the gull was poisoned by Red Tide.

Amid all the talk of the wildlife killed by Red Tide this year — eels, snook, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles — seabirds and shore birds are frequently left out.

But theyre suffering as well, to the point that wildlife rehabilitation experts are on the lookout for ailing birds. They are particularly searching for the ones that are supposed to be protected by state and federal law, such as black skimmers, least terns, snowy plovers, oystercatchers and red knots.

“Were really worried about the red knots,” said Lorraine Margeson, an avid birder who monitors nesting behavior at For DeSoto. She noted that this time of year, more than a thousand often wind up on the beaches between St. Pete Beach and Sand Key.

The birds that get sick appear to fall ill after eating the dead fish killed by Red Tide. The algaes toxins collect in their avian bodies and affect their neurological and digestive systems.

Sometimes the poison is fatal. Forys said four snowy plovers died on Lido Key near Sarasota, all apparently killed by Red Tide. She said thats an unheard of number of simultaneous deaths for that species, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The hardest hit area appeared to be Sarasota. There, a wildlife rehabilitation facility called Save Our Seabirds took in 45 sick birds in a single morning, said Melissa Dollard, avian hospital director for the Seashore Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores. Dollard said shes hoping her facility doesnt get that many Red Tide patients in such a short space of time.

“Weve gotten about 20 birds so far that are presenting with Red Tide symptoms,” Dollard said.

The ones most commonly affected are the laughing gulls, she said, but the sanctuary has also cared for a pair of cormorants, a ruddy turnstone and a few pelicans, among other species.

Treating them involves giving them food thats not tainted by Red Tide, providing fluids to flush out the toxins and sometimes treating them with activated charcoal, which helps purge the Red Tide, Dollard said. Usually theyre fine after seven to 10 days of treatment, she said.

The sick ones are easy to spot, said Holley Short, project manager for bird stewardship for Audubons Tampa Bay chapter.

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“They cant support themselves,” she said. “They’re not acting like birds on a beach typically do.” Theyre not able to control their movements. “.

According to Marianne Korosy, director of bird conservation for Audubon of Florida, a black skimmer that was hatched on Marco Island earlier this year did not grow normally. The bird finally became too ill to stand, and it passed away.

The animal equivalent of an autopsy, a necropsy, was ordered by state wildlife officials. According to Korosy, the cause of death was found to be a parasite, but “its tissues were loaded” with Red Tide toxins. According to her, there’s a suspicion that the toxins from Red Tide damaged the bird’s immune system, which let the parasite run wild.

The good news, according to Margeson, is that ardent birdwatchers and wildlife rehabilitation specialists are collaborating to comb the beaches and locate casualties before it’s too late. Most poisoning cases are treatable if they seek medical attention quickly.

One more positive development regarding the effect of Red Tide on seabirds:

When Forys went to St. Pete Beach was looking for any black skimmers that Red Tide might have sickened. The skimmers are protected under the U. S. Migratory Bird Treaty and are categorized by Florida’s wildlife agency as threatened. She was relieved she didnt find any.

“Fortunately,” she said, “their nesting season was over.”

Contact Craig Pittman at Follow @craigtimes.

The red tide of this year stands out for its severity and timing. Usually, harmful algal blooms don’t show up until the early fall and disappear by January. Seeing one this early in the season, when it can affect nesting birds and has plenty of time to intensify before the start of cool weather, is unusual and concerning, according to experts.

When fragments of the organisms become trapped in tiny sea spray bubbles, brevotoxins can also become airborne. In this form, they are not as dangerous to people and land animals, but they still discourage people from visiting the beach. They could cause symptoms similar to allergies, like runny nose, itchy throats, watery eyes, and, in more extreme situations, breathing difficulties. According to Backer, “Those who have asthma may have symptoms for a longer period of time, even after they leave the beach.”

Many beaches near Tampa Bay are currently classified as high-risk due to NOAA’s experimental Red Tide Respiratory Forecast, which tracks wind patterns and the concentration of these airborne particles. Although Short doesn’t think she’s sensitive to respiratory symptoms, she has personally experienced the effects this year. She describes it as feeling like she has a cold or something similar, but she doesn’t really have one. “I knew it was pretty bad when I started feeling all of those symptoms,” she says. ”.

In Tampa Bay, the dead fish accumulate like sand dunes. Holley Short has been observing them with increasing anxiety for several weeks. She wants to chase away any shorebird that picks at one of the carcasses. “It’s really easy pickings for them. But it’s so hazardous to their health,” she says.

Harmful algal blooms—otherwise known as HABs or “red tides”—occur when toxic algae become highly concentrated in ocean waters. Tampa Bay is currently in the grip of an intense bloom, which has resulted in more than 900 tons of dead fish and other marine debris being removed from beaches as of last week, according to the Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste. The tide currently extends from Pasco county down to Cape Coral. As the situation worsens, dozens of organizations have called for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency.


Can red tide affect birds?

Red tide will cause changes in the abundance and distribution of fishes, which will be accompanied by changes in the patterns of habitat use by birds. Birds will be affected by exposure to brevetoxin via their prey and they will also face decreased availability of prey during and following red tides.

What animals does red tide kill?

The algae responsible for red tide produces natural toxins and, when present in large amounts, the toxins can kill dolphins, turtles, marine birds, and manatees. The toxins are so potent that within minutes of being exposed to red tide, fish begin to swim erratically and then become paralyzed.

Does red tide kill seagulls?

A laughing gull and a red-shouldered hawk were among the fifty-three animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.

Why is it bad to swim during red tide?

who swim in red tide experience skin irritation and eye irritation. After contact, thoroughly wash off with fresh water. Red tide can also produce airborne chemicals, called toxins, that can cause you to cough, sneeze and tear. For most people, these are temporary symptoms.