A contagious viral disease may be killing juvenile double-crested cormorants in Toronto
Lucas Powers · CBC News · Posted: Aug 24, 2018 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: August 24
Authorities believe they're one step closer to identifying a mystery illness causing unusual behaviour and ultimately death in some juvenile birds on Toronto's waterfront.
A swab sample taken from a visibly sick double-crested cormorant this week tested positive for a highly contagious avian viral disease called Newcastle disease, according to Brian Stevens, a pathologist at the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.
Brain cells taken from the same animal also show signs of Newcastle disease, he added. Since the affliction can be devastating for both wild birds and poultry, a brain sample will now be sent to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for further testing.
"It's all preliminary at this point, but there are signs suggesting that it is indeed Newcastle disease," said Stevens, adding that the process could take a number of weeks to complete.
The initial result provides some insight into what might be causing dozens of Toronto's most controversial birds to act so strangely.
About three weeks ago, people using the area around Tommy Thompson Park started reporting finding double-crested cormorants behaving oddly. Individual birds were seen walking down trails nearby people — unusual for the species. Others were found acting as though their wings or necks were broken.
One video posted to Facebook shows a cormorant with its head tilted sharply to the side, standing in a shallow puddle, seemingly unaware of human activity around it. The user who posted the video said in the comments that the bird stayed that way for hours.