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Wildlife Disease
Water bird mortality associated with freezing winter weather and disease
  1. J. P. Duff1,
  2. A. Holliman1,
  3. G. Hateley2,
  4. R. M. Irvine3,
  5. A. Wight4 and
  6. S. Williamson5
  1. AHVLA – Penrith, Merrythought, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 9RR
  2. AHVLA – Thirsk, West House, Station Road, Thirsk, North Yorkshire YO7 1PZ
  3. AHVLA – Weybridge, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB
  4. AHVLA – Winchester, Itchen Abbas, Winchester SO21 1BX
  5. AHVLA – Bury St Edmunds, Rougham Hill, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 2RX
  1. e-mail: paul.duff{at}

Statistics from

SINCE January 2011, the Diseases of Wildlife Scheme and avian influenza wild bird survey funded by Defra have investigated several mass mortality incidents in wild water birds in England where there were associations with the prolonged freezing weather, which started in December and continued into January. The incidents included:

  • Death through starvation of 13 black-headed gulls (Larus ridibundus) on grassland in Yorkshire. The ground where the birds were found was entirely frozen and this may have prevented the gulls feeding on invertebrate prey such as earthworms.

  • Deaths of approximately 220 black-headed and common gulls (Larus canus) in Norfolk associated with feeding at a landfill site. Avian botulism was suspected based on the clinical history and exclusion of other diagnoses. Several factors probably predisposed to this disease incident, including a switch in the gulls' feeding habits from frozen fields to the landfill waste. The gulls may have found access to partially buried landfill waste over the …

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