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. Mystery As Hundreds Of Birds Fall From Sky In Australia

The yellow-throated miner, one of the species of birds affected in Esperance, Australia.
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Jan 11, 2007
Australian authorities are investigating the mysterious deaths of hundreds of birds that dropped from the sky over a small coastal town in a period of a few weeks. Residents of Esperance in Western Australia found their suburban properties littered with the bodies of honeyeaters, wattle birds and yellow-throated miners, local media reported this week.

Michelle Crisp told the Australian newspaper she and her neighbour had counted 80 dead birds in one day. "It was like a moonscape, just horrible," she said.

"The loss of birds has been so noticeable people are saying 'We've just got no birds in the garden at all', or 'We're getting no dawn chorus'," conservationist Graeme Hamilton told AFP Thursday.

Hamilton, chief executive of the country's main bird conservation group, Birds Australia, said he had never heard of bird deaths on the scale seen in Esperance.

"Certainly several hundred birds have been reported dead to the department of the environment but it may be up to several thousand as not every dead bird would have been reported."

He said the only possible explanations would be a sudden epidemic of disease or a natural or manmade toxic substance.

"No other animal groups seem to be affected, we're not turning up dead cats and dogs and marsupials," he said. "It's a mystery."

The states' department of food and agriculture has conducted autopsies on several birds.

"It doesn't appear to be an infectious cause. Certainly, one thing that is being considered is a toxin," said acting chief veterinary officer Fiona Sunderman.

"The birds are dying around sprinklers, water tanks, bird baths. They're seeking water and they're dying around those water points," said district nature conservation co-ordinator Mike Fitzgerald.

Esperance, surrounded by lakes, offshore islands and national parks, was renowned for its bird life.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Sewanee TN (SPX) Jan 11, 2007
Urban sprawl might not be as harmful to wildlife as previously thought, according to a new study by researchers from the Landscape Analysis Lab at Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee. Using field surveys and digital maps of habitat, David Haskell and Jonathan Evans, both biology professors at Sewanee and Neil Pelkey, an environmental science professor at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., compared the diversity of bird populations in natural forests, tree plantations and "exurban" (urban sprawl) areas along the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee.

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