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Mystery surrounds unexplained bird deaths

November 26, 2015 | Comment icon 13 comments

Why are starlings drowning themselves ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Mick Lobb
Scientists have been struggling to explain why some UK garden birds are drowning themselves en masse.
Starlings, which were once a common sight across the British Isles, have declined in numbers by as much as 79% in recent years, mostly due to a loss of nesting sites and insect food sources.

Now however a new and more mysterious killer is on the loose - one that seems to be causing the birds to drown themselves in garden ponds in groups of up to ten at a time.

So far no conclusive explanation has been found for the phenomenon but there is evidence to indicate that it may have been going on for several years.
These unexplained deaths typically appear to occur during the spring and early summer and investigators have never found any sign of disease in any of the specimens.

"Drowning appears to be a more common cause of death amongst younger birds, as they may be inexperienced in identifying water hazards," said lead researcher Dr Becki Lawson.

"This combined with the fact that starlings are a highly social species could potentially explain why multiple birds drown together."

"With starling numbers declining in general across the UK, we need to learn more about how and where these phenomena happen."

Source: Scotsman | Comments (13)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by ouija ouija 6 years ago
I honestly don't think this is the drama it's being made out to be. They're talking about 10 incidents in the whole of Britain over a 20+ year period. Most of the incidents involve young birds. I've regularly seen 20+ young starlings in my garden(some of them barely out of the egg!), 'minded' by just one or two adults. They ARE very sociable, as the article says, and they hurl themselves onto birdtables and into birdbaths in a big crowd/rabble so I can quite see how they might also hurl themselves into a small pond, not understanding that it isn't shallow like a birdbath. edit to say: any sour... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by actower 6 years ago
It could be as simple as the birds not having a way to get out of the pond if they fall in. If they can't stand up in the water they can't fly.
Comment icon #6 Posted by MisterMan 6 years ago
I was going to congratulate the author for not using the word "baffled." But then I read the full linked article. Doh.
Comment icon #7 Posted by MissJatti 6 years ago
we all should know that birds (including sterling's) like to have a bath socially, for hundreds of years. So they are not afraid of water. I'm sure that the birds are clever enough to somehow know how deep a the water goes in any given space.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Sundew 6 years ago
Had a hawk drown in my pool once, maybe on Starling fell in and the others followed suit, like dolphins beaching themselves after a single individual gets stranded. If this is found to be a disease that only kills Starlings, send us some! Starlings have caused huge problems in the U.S. since their release here, I think by a Shakespearian group in New York who wanted all the birds in his writings to be part of the local fauna. Another bad idea about moving animals somewhere they don't belong.
Comment icon #9 Posted by pallidin 6 years ago
Those starling swarms, or whatever they are called, are awesome to behold, for sure.
Comment icon #10 Posted by pallidin 6 years ago
Turn-up the YouTube HD, if you can...
Comment icon #11 Posted by pallidin 6 years ago
God! I love God and Nature. How beautiful this is.
Comment icon #12 Posted by pallidin 6 years ago
And here...
Comment icon #13 Posted by docyabut2 6 years ago
That is beautiful with the music, but I some how think its the birds sense of direction of the magnetic field that makes them drown.

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