Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 3, 2014

Wildlife rehabber said hundreds of dead birds might have been saved

Wildlife rehabilitator: Hundreds of dead birds might have been saved

Niagara Gazette — A wildlife rehabilitator says that hundreds of ducks found dead in area waterways since the last winter storm might have been saved through a concentrated volunteer effort.

Timothy O’Day, founder of the Campbell Environmental Center in Boston, N.Y., and a biology teacher at Medaille College, said he and his students and volunteers have been gathering the bodies of the dead ducks since the last winter storm mid-March.  

“It’s a mess,” said O’Day. “We’re talking conservatively that a couple thousand birds are dead from Dunkirk to Beaver Island.”

The situation is complicated, due, he believes, to global warming which he said increases precipitation and thus, creates more snow; but the cause of the duck deaths is fairly easy to determine. 

“Most of the die-off has occurred because of starvation,” he said. “Most of the birds have lost over 50 percent of their weight.” Other ducks were found frozen in the lakes and waterways, too weak or unable to fly, he added.   

O’Day spoke Tuesday on a dock overlooking a creek at Buckhorn State Park on Grand Island, where one of his volunteers had rescued a dying duck last week. The volunteer, Ryan Walters of Angola, a biology student at Buffalo State College, was able to trap a female greater scaup who was trying to make her way back the water but was too weak to move. Though the duck has being cared for since it’s rescue, it has lost much muscle mass and O’Day is not hopeful about its survival.

The largest population of ducks to be impacted were fish eating ducks called red-breasted mergansers, which require open water to fly off after a landing. With the lakes 90 percent frozen, the open water and fishing areas were dangerously limited, O’Day said. 

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