Avian botulism is caused by the soil bacterium, Clostridium botulinum, and causes paralysis and death in birds. Two types of botulism have been found in birds: Type C, which occurs during warmer months across the U.S., and Type E, which is found primarily in the Great Lakes in the U.S.
Birds can become infected with botulism after ingesting decaying organic matter or live invertebrates that have been infected with the toxin.
USGS scientists are studying avian botulism on microscopic and geographic scales to answer questions about how the botulism toxin spreads through the food chain, how botulism can be controlled, and where botulism outbreaks may occur next.
Avian Botulism in Distressed Great Lakes Environments — Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)
Waterbird Distribution and Foraging Patterns on the Great Lakes with Respect to Avian Botulism — Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center
Avian Botulism Information — National Wildlife Health Center
Avian Monitoring for Botulism Lakeshore Events — Volunteer science at Lake Michigan
UMESC scientists and partners captured and radiomarked juvenile common loons on lakes scattered across Minnesota and Wisconsin during the last two weeks of August 2014. The objective of this work is to describe the movements and wintering ground use of juvenile loons produced in Minnesota and Wisconsin during their first two years of life, using satellite transmitter and geolocator tag technologies.
A paralyzing disease known as botulism has killed over 100,000 birds in parts of the Great Lakes since 1999. The outbreak is particularly harmful to some species of water birds, silencing the haunting call of many common loons...
Midwest loons are susceptible to avian botulism in the Great Lakes and pollution found in U.S. waters during migration and overwintering...
During 2010 to 2013, waterbird mortality surveillance programs used a shared protocol for shoreline walking surveys performed June to November at three areas in northern Lake Michigan. In 2010 and 2012, 1244 total carcasses (0.8 dead bird/km walked) and 2399 total carcasses (1.2 dead birds/km walked), respectively, were detected.
Journal of Great Lakes Research, v. 41, issue 2, June 2015
The reemergence of avian botulism caused by Clostridium botulinum type E has been observed across the Great Lakes in recent years. Evidence suggests an association between the nuisance algae, Cladophoraspp., and C. botulinum in nearshore areas of the Great Lakes. However, the nature of the association between Cladophora and C. botulinum is not fully understood due, in part, to the complex food web interactions in this disease etiology. In this study, we extensively evaluated their association by quantitatively examining population size and serotypes of C. botulinum in algal mats collected from wide geographic areas in lakes Michigan, Ontario, and Erie in 2011–2012 and comparing them with frequencies in other matrices such as sand and water.
Science of the Total Environment, v. 511, April 2015