Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Birds fall out of the skies - in Esperance, W.A.

Brush Wattlebird
You might recall that I wrote two stories last week about the super storm which buffetted West Australia last week.

Well, today Miss Eagle sent me a link to this story from Naturally I am always wary of Rupert's media network, but occasionally they do get good stories.

This story falls into the "incredible - but credible" category. (Ah, the joys of the English language). I read what I see in this story, and cannot pick holes in the reports. So, in that regard it is credible. But it is hard to believe that such a thing can happen - therefore we can describe it as "incredible".

The story says: "Thousands of birds have fallen from the skies over Esperance and no one knows why".

It seems that autopsies have been conducted on many of these birds, and no obvious reason can be found for the death of these birds. Poison and infection ("bird flu"?) appear to have been ruled out. Incidentally, bird flu seems to mostly be an issue with water birds, which tend to hang out in huge numbers, and in large flocks.

More significantly, this apparently started before the big storm hit last week. That was my original theory - exhaustion from trying to fly against the storm. Or even some massive electrical effects of the storm. But apparently not. Not if it started three weeks ago.

Singing Honeyeater
It is interesting that of the main species listed - Wattlebirds, Yellow-throated Miners, New Holland Honeyeaters, and Singing Honeyeaters - are all in the family of Honeyeaters. All are nectar feeders and insectivores. These birds are not normally represented in huge numbers, and they are not the obvious, colourful birds which people normally notice (not like Parrots, for example).

Some other species, such as Crows, Hawks and Pigeons are listed, but not in the same numbers as the others. Crows are carrion eaters - so they could get poisoned or diseased from eating other dead birds. Hawks are hunters, but could be poisoned or diseased form eating live birds, but that is less likely. But Pigeons are out of the frame completely. They are seed eaters, not at all likely to be eating the same foods as the other birds.

It is all very odd indeed.

"Acting chief veterinary officer Fiona Sunderman said toxins were the most likely cause but the deaths could be due to anything from toxic algae to chemicals and pesticides.

"Dr Sunderman said there were no leads yet on which of potentially hundreds of toxins might be responsible. Some birds were seen convulsing as they died."

My money is on some form of insecticide spray - but for all the Honeyeaters to have gone first, it requires their food sources (mainly native flowering trees such as Eucalypts and Banksias) to have been poisoned. Why? Has there been an outbreak of spraying of Christmas Beetles in WA? That my best guess.

Until more reports come to light, we should leave this report up in the air. I would not mind betting that it is some form of human "cock-up" but, those are the hardest cases to prove, because if it is something like that, then the humans responsible will be covering their tracks, and denying any knowledge.

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