Massive Bird Die-Off in Oregon

One of the worst bird die-offs in a decade has taken place in Oregon’s Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Avian cholera caused the die-off, but overcrowding of birds led to the increased transmission of the infectious disease. A lack of  water, due to low rain fall and water use by humans, left their wetlands habitat dry, so they huddled together in the few remaining wet areas they could find. Snow geese, American coot, American wigeon, the white-fronted goose and northern pintail were some of the species impacted by the disease and lack of water.

Between February and the first week of April, wildlife workers and volunteers picked up nearly 3,800 deceased birds and placed them away from the live ones, to reduce the spread of avian cholera, a disease that does not harm humans. Officials estimated between 10,000 and 20,000 birds died when the disease outbreak took place.

“The consequences to shutting off water to the Lower Klamath Refuge are enormous and unacceptable. We cannot continue to place wildlife at the bottom of the pecking order,” said George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy. (Source: SF Gate)

Striking a balance between all the water users in the region has been a tricky endeavor for some time. A proposed plan to dismantle four hydro-electric dams on the Klamath River would allow more water for wildlife refuges and open up much more habitat for migrating steelhead trout, chinook and coho salmon. There has been some opposition to this plan by some agricultural interests such as ranchers because they are concerned their energy costs might increase and they will get less water.

One major oversight in the water management balancing scenario, is human population planning. If the human population keeps growing natural resources will continue to be plundered to the detriment of the other species on the planet, and yet human population planning doesn’t typically seem to be even mentioned in media about natural resource management.

Image Credit: Cephas

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Aud Nordby
Aud nordby3 years ago


Tim U.
Tim Upham4 years ago

It will have to be watched to see if ample rainfall will return. Also, to monitor how much water is being withdrawn out of these wetlands. That is one of the benefits of wetlands, is the access to water, but sometimes they can be over-utilized.

Carrie Anne Brown

very sad news but thanks for sharing

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Horrifyingly SAD!!!

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Horrifyingly SAD!!!

Carlton C.
Carlton C.4 years ago

Sadly part of the problem is the refuge itself. The marshes there are artificially-impounded which attracts and holds concentrated populations of waterfowl longer every year than a naturally fluctuating marsh would. In a non-impounded marsh system, in dry years some birds die and others are forced to disperse and keep moving which helps limit spread of disease. With permanent water they don't move and naturally occurring diseases like cholera and botulism kill thousands.

Cecily Pretty
Cecily P.4 years ago

How incredibly sad! :(

Shin Takahashi
Shin Takahashi4 years ago

Sad news actually. Can we prevent not to happen such a tragedy in future? thanks.

Sue H.
Sue H.4 years ago

Heartbreaking. Why would they even consider letting our cherished wetlands dry up??

Ron B.
Ron B.4 years ago

This should not be happening anywhere, especially in a State such as Oregon which claims to be so progressive. It is progressive, but not as much as some people may think it is. We've been having ongoing "water wars" here for a while now.