American Avocet Release
- The Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center is releasing the American Avocet
tomorrow, Friday, March 2nd, 2007 at 11:30am. Meet at the Wetlands
& Wildlife Care Center, 21900 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington
Beach, CA. We will release the bird at the end of our property into
As of yet, we do not know the exact cause of the sea bird deaths for
the Santa Ana River Incident, but what we do know is that something
acute and neurological happened to the affected birds. Gross
necropsy findings: They died well to moderately fleshed, with no
apparent illnesses or injuries.
Fourteen different species were affected by this incident. We had
10 live intakes, 22 DOA and 50+ dead birds, called in but never
recovered. Approximately 80 birds have been affected and there are
many more casualties that we will never know about. We released two
birds, a California Gull and a Killdeer. The American Avocet will
be the third and last bird released.
Here is the final report of the incident:
Santa Ana River Incident
Seizuring Sea Bird Crisis
Event History February 4, 2007 through February 22, 2007
Since February 4th, we have received seizuring birds. The first two
patients were a California Gull (CAGU) and a Brandt's Cormorant
(BRAC). The CAGU was released eight days after admission on Mon.,
Feb. 12th. The CAGU survived 5 days of blindness and seizures
before recovering from the illness. The BRAC passed away after just
a few days despite treatments.
On Friday, Feb. 9th we received three seizuring birds, an American
Avocet that fell from the sky into a good Samaritans yard having a
seizure (this person lives next to the Santa Ana River in Costa Mesa
about 1 mile inland from the delta), an Eared Grebe from Newport
Pier, and a Western Grebe brought in from just north of the Santa
Ana River mouth in Huntington Beach. We began receiving calls from
the public of dead birds that were either left on the beach, given
to the Lifeguards, or thrown into trash cans. An estimated 25 to 30
dead cormorants were reported seen during the previous week in
Newport Beach from between the Santa Ana River and the Newport Pier.
Key four letter species ID:
California Gull (CAGU) Brandt's Cormorant (BRAC)
Ring-billed Gull (RBGU) Double Crested Cormorant (DCCO)
Rhinoceros Auklet (RHAU) Lesser Scaup (LESC)
Brown Pelican (BRPE) American Avocet (AMAV)
Western Grebe (WEGR) Eared Grebe (EAGR)
Black-crowned Night Heron (BCNH) Pacific Loon (PALO)
Great Blue Heron (GBHE) Killdeer (KILL)
Black Vented Shearwater (BVSH)
Species # of Live Intakes # of DOA Intakes Total
AMAV 1 0 1
BCNH 0 1 1
BRAC 1 6 7
BRPE 0 2 2
BVSH 0 1 1
CAGU 2 6 8
DCCO 0 3 3
EAGR 1 0 1
GBHE 1 0 1
KILL 1 0 1
LESC 0 1 1
PALO 1 0 1
RHAU 0 1 1
WEGR 2 1 3
Necropsy and Lab Findings
Our necropsy team took necropsy and tissue samples. Samples and
carcasses have been sent to:
1. Caron Labs at USC for Domoic Acid Poisoning tests
2. USGS Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI for toxicology
tests (EAGR, WEGR, PACO)
3. ANTECH Diagnostics Labs for tissue biopsies using OC Animal
Control's ANTECH ID number.
ANTECH Diagnostics Lab Findings:
Findings from ANTECH Diagnostics Lab; Pathologist: Cynthia X.
Bacmeister, DVM, PhD, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary
Reference #: IRPB07415482
Patient: WEGR 19568
Source: Liver, heart, skeletal muscle
Microscopic findings: Skeletal Muscle: Myodegeneration, segmental,
moderate with mild fiber fraying and mild interstitial edema and
mild multifocal lumphohistiocytic inflammation.
Microscopic findings: Heart: Congestion, mild segmental.
Microscopic findings: Liver: Hepatitis, mild multifocal, random
granulomatous with mass congestion and cholestasis and segmental
There is no evidence of neoplasia in hepatic, cardiac, or skeletal
muscular sections examined. On routinely stained sections,
parasitic agents are not observed. In the liver sections there are
rare random granulomas. Distinct abscessation and suspense
heterophilic inflammation suggesting acute inflammation, however,
are not observed.
Special stains can be performed on the liver sections in Block 5 to
enhance visualization of mycobacterial and fungal etiologic agents.
Call 1-800-745-4725 to order special stains. In this case, we would
order two stains, acid fast stain to rule out mycobacterial
infection and GMS stain for fungus. We keep the tissues in paraffin
blocks for two years, so the decision on special staining does not
have o be made at this time. While these stains can be helpful in
advancing the diagnosis when positive, a negative result does not
rule out these etiologic agents and concurrent culture (fungal;
bacterial: routine and special) is recommended if an infectious
etiology is suspected.
Potential etiologic differentials for the skeletal muscular lesions
noted include: nutritional deficiencies, toxic myopathy, and
exertional myopathy. Lack of hemorrhage makes the differential of
exertional myopathy less likely.
Reference #: IRPB07415473
Patient: EAGR 19573
Source: Heart, skeletal muscle, liver
Microscopic findings: Liver: Congestion, mild, segmental, with
minimal to mild cholestasis.
Microscopic findings: Heart: Congestion, mild, segmental.
Microscopic findings: Skeletal Muscle: Congestion, severe, with
rare segmental myodegeneration and fraying, and cytoplasmic
vacuolation and rare primarily perivascular, lymphohistiocytic
Comments: There is no evidence of neoplasia in hepatic, skeletal
muscular, or cardiac muscular sections examined. There is no
substantial hemorrhage or necrosis. Pectoral muscular sections
examines demonstrate substantial congestion with loss of cross
striations. Cytoplasm demonstrates granularity rather that distinct
fibers with cross striations. Primary etiologic differentials
include nutritional myopathy, toxic myopathy, and exertional
Reference #: IRPB07415464
Patient: PALO 19575
Source: Liver, Heart, skeletal muscle
Liver: Congestion, mild, diffuse, with mild cholestasis.
Heart: Myodegeneration, mild, segmental, with rare myonecrosis and
Skeletal Muscle: Myodegeneration, segmental, mild to moderate, with
mild interstitial edema and lymphohitiocytic inflammation.
Comment: There is no evidence of neoplasia in cardiac, skeletal
muscular, or hepatic sections examined. Parasitic and fungal agents
are not observed, nor is there substantial active inflammation.
Segmentally, there are areas of Myodegeneration and myofiber loss,
both in cardiac and skeletal muscular sections. There is no
substantial mineralization. Primary differentials include toxic and
nutritional myopathy and exertional myopathy. Coccidiostats, growth
promoters, gossypol, and plants such as cassia has caused skeletal
muscular lesions in birds. Gross changes are typically not noted,
and histologic changes can be minimal. Exertional myopathies are
typically associated with some degree of hemorrhage. Nutritional
myopathies (e.g.: vitamin E or selenium deficiencies) can be seen in
picivorous birds fed diets of improperly frozen or thawed fish. Any
diets containing rancid polyunsaturated fats could cause similar
Reference #: IRPB97415491
Patient: BRAC 19585
Source: Heart, Liver, Skeletal Muscle
Heart: Congestion, Mild
Liver: Congestion, mild, with mild cholestasis and segmental
Skeletal Muscle: Interstitial myositis, mild segmental
perivascular, lymphohistiocytic, non-supperuative, rare segmental
myodegeneration and loss.
There is no evidence of neoplasia in examined sections. Parasitic
and fungal agents are not observed on routinely stained sections,
nor is there substantial active inflammation. No substantial
mineralization associated with areas myodegeneration. The
degenerative changed noted in skeletal muscular sections examined
are not evident in the cardiac muscular sections. Toxic myopathies
and nutritional myopathies as well as exertional myopathies can all
be characterized by myofragmentation and non-suppurative
inflammation as are present in this case.
End of ANTECH Diagnostics report
Caron Labs Findings:
Reported February 15, 2007:
Astrid Schnetzer of the Caron Labs at USC ran Domoic Acid analyses
on 5 birds that were brought into the Wetlands & Wildlife Center - 4
bloods and 1 stomach content sample. Out of the 4 samples she had 1
positive hit for the stomach content sample with 0.032 micrograms
per gram weight on a DOA Double-crested Cormorant (DCCO) found
between Newland and the mouth of the Santa Ana River. Astrid
continues to test other blood and stomach samples that the Wetlands
& Wildlife Care Center collected and I will pass this information
along as I receive it.
Attached is a map that Astrid provided that shows the station
locations for samples that were collected on Monday and Tuesday
February 5th and 6th. Astrid found that 4 of her 13 samples were
positive for Domoic Acid with particulate ranging from 0.02 to 0.166
micrograms per L (see map). "BD" stands for below detection limit.
Reported February 17, 2007:
Thanks for the update. We included the 2 birds (AMAV and Loon) in
But weirdly enough these are the only 2 samples that came back with
replication. I am not certain what happened but we will have to
rerun both next week (likely
on Wednesday). I believe more dilution steps for these samples are
necessary - it almost seems
something interfered with the chemistry during the test (although
all other 34 samples in the same test plate looked fine).
Reported February 23, 2007:
We analyzed the samples that we collected on February 20th for
particulate domoic acid concentrations (DA in phytoplankton) and all
of them came back negative. We observed a mixed diatom assemblage
but rarely any Pseudo-nitzschia cells under the microscope. Some
sample locations had a fair number of dinoflagellates.
Santa Ana Bird mortalities continued:
This week we also tested 2 more bird samples for DA that we received
from the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach
(including the Avocet featured on TV) and those blood samples were
negative for DA. Overall count, only 1 out of 7 bird samples
positive for DA
(see more details in our last update).
Mammal samples: We received urine and a feces sample from a sea lion
that was received on Feb 19th at PMMC (Huntington Beach) and
detected DA in urine (0.8 nanograms per ml) and feces (0.0037
micrograms per g weight).
So overall somewhat mixed results.
We will keep you updated -
Astrid & Dave
Research Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Southern California
3616 Trousdale Parkway, AHF 301
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0371
Tel: 213 821 2065
End of Caron Lab findings
USGS National Wildlife Health Center Findings:
Email dated February 23, 2007:
I got the results back from the Santa Ana River birds you submitted
for brain cholinesterase on the eared grebe and pacific loon. Both
were negative for cholinesterase inhibition so it doesn't appear to
be a poisoning case. We'll run the western grebe next week. I got
the faxed results from ANTECH and looked them over. I didn't see
anything that popped out, but I'm going to discuss the results with
one of our pathologists later today. Have you still been getting
sick and dead birds? Hopefully, the die-off is slowing down. I was
just wondering if you had anything that you would like to send our
way next week. Did the rehab birds survive?
I'm attaching our mortality event history form. If you wouldn't
mind filling it out, I want to make sure that we get your
information in our database. Thanks so much for all that you've
Krysten Schuler, PhD
Field Investigation Team
USGS National Wildlife Health Center
6006 Schroeder Road
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 270-2415 fax
End of USGS National Wildlife Health Center findings
As of yet, we do not know the exact cause of the sea bird deaths,
but what we do know is that there something acute and neurological
happened to the affected birds. Gross necropsies findings: They
died well to moderately fleshed, with no apparent illnesses or
injuries except for one BRAC from Dockweiler Beach that was heavily
infested with roundworm and I think that was most likely his cause
of death. All carcasses have been properly tagged and placed into
our sub-zero freezer. We will keep them for 90-days beginning March
1st unless I hear differently from any organization that may be
interested in future testing. If anyone would like to do further
testing, please let me know. And, if anyone would like to store the
carcasses, please let me know.
I will keep you informed if any more seizuring birds come into our
wildlife center. We have a continual study with Caron Labs with
Domoic Acid poisoning and will submit samples on suspect birds.
Fourteen different species were affected by this incident. We had
10 live intakes, 22 DOA and 50+ dead called in but never recovered.
Approximately 80 birds have been affected and there are many more
causalities that we will never know about. We released two birds, a
CAGU and a Killdeer. We still have the AMAV in care showing daily
Thank you again for all of your help.
Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center
19200 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92646
(714) 374-5587 Business
(714) 713-1155 Cell
- Hi Birders
Today, Nick and I along with Paul Weers cruised around Orange County
and spent the day at the following locations for a pleasant day of
This morning at Tewinkle Park, we were happy to have refound the
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER as it was found with a TOWNSEND'S WARBLER,
and stayed mostly in pines. At the nearby pond, a pair of HOODED
MERGANSER and a single male EURASIAN WIGEON were present with other
We then tried locating the WORM-EATING WARBLER at UC Irvine off of
Los Trancos to no avail.
Then we visited Huntington Beach Central Park where we found a single
WHITE-FACED IBIS at the pond on the east side of Golden West, and a
nearby WILSON'S WARBLER.
Then we finished our day making our first visit to Bolsa Chica since
the renovation. It was very birdy. A REDDISH EGRET was well south
(east?) of the first viewing overlook, but we found it through our
scope. A few BLACK-BELLED PLOVER were starting to show signs of
their breeding plumage. A few DUNLIN were amongst the WESTERN
SANDPIPER flocks. At the flood gate, we found a single BLUE-WINGED TEAL.
Mary & Nick Freeman