Skip to main content

Thousands Of Birds Die At Salton Sea; Avian Cholera Suspected

Medium shot of the Salton Sea, Dec. 7, 2017.

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Above: Medium shot of the Salton Sea, Dec. 7, 2017.

The death of several thousand birds at the Salton Sea last month is raising concern about the lake’s ecological health.

An outbreak of avian cholera claimed the lives of thousands of ducks, gulls and other birds looking for food along the shores of the Salton Sea.

Quality bird habitat is shrinking at the lake and the recent die-off is an indicator of that because it means a lot of birds are coming in close contact with each other.

RELATED: The Shrinking Salton Sea Endangers Region’s Health

“When duck species and geese, in particular, crowd into smaller areas, so its particularly prevalent in drought conditions or areas where you have limited supply of good quality water, the birds get in really close contact with each other and spread diseases like this,” said Andrea Jones, the Audubon Society’s director of bird conservation.

The disease is common in the winter, but it is also an indicator that ecological conditions in a particular area are under stress.

“Thousands of birds dead in any location is a cause for concern. And it's something we need to look at and it's just another data point for us to tell the state that we need to act quickly,” Jones said.

The bird deaths are a reminder to state officials, Jones said, that they need to begin restoring habitat, so the threat of disease outbreaks is reduced.

The die-offs are a reminder that thousands of birds still use the Salton Sea as a migration rest area, according to Jones.

Bird die-off at the Salton Sea could be an indicator that the ecological health of the lake is getting worse.

You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego Stories, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.