November 18, 2013 at 8:42 pm #1011MikeKeymaster
Migrating birds perish in Lake Superior
Cook County News-Herald
Last Updated: Thursday, September 15th, 2005 10:49:54 AM
From all reports, more than 50, if not hundreds, of migratory
songbirds (passerines) died in Lake Superior last week, the probable
victims of a lake effect wind in the early morning hours of Sept. 7.
“Apparently the bird kill was caused by a weather phenomenon,” said
Dave Ingebrigtsen, wildlife manager for the Department of Natural
Resources in Grand Marais.
The National Weather Service reported gusts of 40 miles per hour in
the early morning along the lake, which might have contributed to the
kill, he said.
“I really don’t have a good idea exactly what happened,” Ingebrigtsen
said. “We’re trying to piece it together.”
The dead birds were found in “slicks” of seed and leaf debris from up
to half a mile from shore from the Brule River to Tofte/Schroeder.
The bird kill was first discovered by fishermen. Ralph Larson of
Grand Marais and Dave Eide of the Twin Cities both called in reports
of dead birds. One of the fisherman brought four of the birds to the
DNR, Ingebrigtsen said.
Also, Darren Peck, owner of Tofte Charters, said he saw what he
thought were hundreds of dead birds in between Tofte and Schroeder.
“I’ve never seen that many dead birds in the water,” he said. “We
didn’t count them, but they were just dotting the surface in slicks a
couple hundred yards offshore.”
Peck said he saw a bald eagle take advantage of the kill. It swooped
down, caught one of the birds in its talons and carried it back to
Ingebrigtsen said seagulls were feasting on the kill as well. He said
when he heard the reports, he and conservation officer Brad Johnson
took a boat out and collected birds between the Brule River and Grand
All the birds they found were passerines and included Swainson’s
thrushes, white-throated sparrows and a number of warbler species.
Dead birds were also reported on the lake shore in Tofte and
Kathy Horak of Cobblestone Cabins said a guest reported finding them
Carol Tveekrem, who lives in Schroeder, reported in an e-mail that
some people staying at Fenstad’s Resort in Little Marais said they
found a few small birds washed up on the beaches a few days later.
This is the height of the passerine fall migration, Ingebrigtsen
A record number were recorded at Hawk Ridge in Duluth on Sept. 7. “So
the migration is really on right now and these birds just got caught
somehow,” he said, adding that migratory songbirds which migrate
through Minnesota number in the hundreds of thousands.
“If the extent of the mortality is not vastly greater than that
indicated by this collection, the effect on the bird populations is
not significant,” he said.
“However, any large bird kill is concerning because studies have
documented a long-term decline in many passerine species. To my
knowledge, nobody has told me they observed this before, and I’ve
been here 15 years.”
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