Avian Cholera Strikes Bird Population At Wildlife Refuge

Over 500 birds have been found dead at the McNary National Wildlife Refuge near Burbank, WA because of a particularly virulent strain of Avian Cholera. More birds were continuing to be counted and collected when news broke, as workers keep track of just how successful this disease has been in spreading across the local bird population.

mcnary wildlife refuge

Cholera is often spread in the colder and wetter months of the year as birds often travel great distances and congregate together. That makes it easy for diseases to spread quickly in close proximity to additional hosts. Avian Cholera itself doesn’t spread to human hosts, though humans themselves must be careful in the disposal of bird carcasses to prevent contracting a different disease. So far, the majority of birds infected have been mallard ducks, with a handful of other species occasionally seen such as blue herons and northern harriers.

bid flu

While the initial hot zone appears to be the Wildlife Refuge itself, some of the bird carcasses have been found on rivers and private properties. No other cases of Avian Cholera have been reported at additional sites, so it would appear as though the strain is local. The Federal Government is taking appropriate steps to prevent further outbreaks outside of the Wildlife Refuge. Federal workers have stopped setting up local feeding spots with corn. That will deter birds from gathering together at spots where they may be exposed to other birds with the bacteria.

dead bird

While the disease is only expected to spread until the warmer months, the Avian Cholera is noted to be quite lethal to birds. Some are noted to have died as quickly as six hours after the initial infection. This bacteria is known to spread to other birds by way of carcasses, droppings, and contaminated food and water. Local residents are told to remove any dead birds found by placing it in a bag and pouring bleach on it to kill harmful bacteria before disposing of it. Stay up to date on the latest bird news at www.audubon.org.

The Legendary Swallows of San Juan Capistrano

Every year on or around March 19th, on St. Joseph’s day, something beautiful happens at the Mission in San Juan Capistrano. The legendary swallows arrive as expected from Argentina. As these swallows find their way back to this place every year, many visitors from all corners of the world gather in massive numbers to witness their arrival amid celebrations.

the mission

Every year, a small group of birds known as scout swallows arrive a few days ahead of the main flock. The majority of the swallows arrive on the 19th and immediately start reconstructing the mud nests on the ruins of the old stone church, as well as other places in the Capistrano valley. This goes on till October when they migrate back to Argentina.


The Great Stone Church, that was once known as the most beautiful and largest of all the missions, has now been reduced to housing these birds that were dearly loved by St. Francis. The mission was first built in 1776 but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812 and was never rebuilt fully.

The San Juan Capistrano mission happens to be the seventh in a chain of 21 California missions, all which are separated by the distance of a day’s walk. The mission was named after Saint John of Capistrano, a crusader who had taken the name of his Italian birthplace.

st john capistrano

Located near two rivers, the mission was a strategic place for the swallows to nest for many years due to the availability of insects to feed on. Today, the reduction in the number of insects, because of development in the area, has contributed to the relocation of the swallows further away from the town center. They prefer open areas so they move away when an area develops or becomes forested. This sheds some light as to why, for several years now, huge clouds of sparrows descending on the mission have not been seen.


Swallows prefer areas that are near food and water sources such as bridges near creeks. They also came to the mission because it was the biggest main building as well. It is said that when the Great Stone Church was stabilized, the preservationists did away with the nests that had been built over a long time. Therefore, these birds relocated to other areas of San Juan Capistrano.

The legend goes that these swallows had taken refuge in the mission to stay away from an irate innkeeper who destroyed their muddy nests. So, the swallows come back to the old ruined church every spring knowing that they will be safe within its walls.

swallows nesting

Today, the city has taken the swallow’s safety seriously by passing an ordinance against destroying their nests. Moreover, efforts are being made to lure them back by constructing more artificial nests. This is a strategy to try and lure them back for good to the mission.

A temporary wall was put up on the east side of the ruins of the Great Stone Church that holds about 30 nests made from dental plaster underneath an archway. The ultimate goal is for the swallows to come and begin using these artificial nests and then they will spill over into the natural walls.

Six Rare Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world and one of the most desired to be seen species. They were given the name ‘hummingbirds’ because they have wings that flap at extraordinary frequencies, and as a result produce a humming sound. What is amazing about these birds is that they can fly left, right, up, down, upside down and even backward. These birds have a special bill that is used to get nectar from tubular and long flowers. There are thousands of humming species around the globe according to scientists. However, some of them now face extinction. This list contains six unique species of hummingbirds.

Rare White Hummingbird

white hummingbird

Most hummingbirds are known to have different colored feathers. However, what makes this bird unique is that it is entirely white. There is not much information about this particular bird except for it has a developmental condition and leucism that makes it lose its coloring. Leucistic birds have the inability to deposit melanin into their feathers although they can produce the pigment. Only this bird has black eyes, so it’s different from other albino birds that have red eyes.

Marvellous Spatuletail


The Marvellous Spatuletail hummingbird was declared rare in the year 2000 by the world conservation union. It is unique in that it has four tail feathers only. The tail of the male adult was found to be twice as long as its body. What is more phenomenal is that the tail of this bird ends in a spoon-shaped spatula with a purple gloss. According to some Ornithologists, the males compete for females through whirling their tails around their bodies. This behavior is one the strangest phenomenon in the hummingbird world. More so, the males attack each other often in the air, contorting their tails and bodies into odd shapes at high speed.

The Colourful Puffleg


These hummingbirds are mostly found in South America. Its population is about 250 birds, and they are the top most endangered species listed by BirdLife International. They have colorful pufflegs that are 8cm in length and short, straight black bills. They also have pink feet and white-eyed spots. The adult male has a mostly dark green plumage, blue abdomen, and under tail feathers that are coppery-gold. The females have a white throat, golden spots on the abdomen and tiny white puffy legs.

Juan Fernández Firecrown


This hummingbird is found only on Isla Robinson Crusoe in Chile and they show a high degree of sexual dimorphism. The males are 11.5 cm long and weigh 10.9g, while the females weigh 6.8g and are 10cm in height. The reasons for its endangered status include habitat loss, predation by mammals and competition. This hummingbird’s habitats are gardens, thickets, and forests and they feed on nectar, the abutilon, eucalyptus and insects. Fewer than 200 of these birds still exist today.

Turquoise-Throated Puffleg

turquiose hummingbird

The Turquoise-Throated Puffleg resides in Ecuador and is one of the most endangered species, with a population of about 49. Its endangered status is attributed to a destroyed habitat. Its body is mostly covered with green feathers and it has legs with white powder-puff feathers. The males are covered with purplish feathers and are about 11cm long. Both the male and the female have an under tail that is violet blue. Its bill is straight and black in color. The main under and upper parts are golden green in males.

Black-Breasted Puffleg


The Black-Breasted Puffleg is considered endangered with a population of about 180 birds around the globe. This bird is about 8cm long and sexually dimorphic. The males have black upper and underparts. On the other hand, the female has golden-green underparts and bronze green above. Both the males and the females have a black bill that is straight and white puffy legs.

In conclusion, every human being should take the responsibility of ensuring that the ecosystem is maintained for these hummingbirds to survive. Some of them have reduced in number because of settlements invading their habitats. The scientists should draw attention to the world to ensure that these beautiful birds are in existence for generations to come.