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Posted Tue Nov 9 2010: from Huffington Post:
Beak Deformities On The Rise: Causes Unknown For Birds' Avian Keratin Disorder
Scientists have observed the highest rate of beak abnormalities ever recorded in wild bird populations in Alaska and the Northwest, a study by two federal scientists said. The U.S. Geological Survey study on beak deformities in northwestern crows in Alaska, Washington and British Columbia follows a trend found earlier in Alaska's black-capped chickadees. "The prevalence of these strange deformities is more than 10 times what is normally expected in a wild bird population," said research biologist Colleen Handel.... The cause of the deformity - called "avian keratin disorder" - hasn't been determined, Handel said. An estimated 17 percent of adult northwestern crows are affected by the disorder in coastal Alaska.... The abnormality sometimes is accompanied by elongated claws, abnormal skin or variations in feather color. Van Hemert said the disorder first was noticed in significant numbers around 1999. It has increased dramatically over the past decade, affecting 6.5 percent of adult black-capped chickadees in Alaska annually. Biologists have documented more than 2,100 affected individuals and increasing numbers of other species, such as nuthatches and woodpeckers, have been spotted with beak deformities.... In the past, large clusters of beak deformities have been associated with environmental pollutants such as organochlorines in the Great Lakes region and selenium from agricultural runoff in California.... The increasing occurrence of deformities in multiple bird species with broad geographic distribution suggests that avian keratin disorder is spreading, they said.
[Read more stories about: bird collapse, faster than expected, toxic buildup, tipping point]

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'Doc Jim says:
Scientists: we need a catchier name than avian keratin disorder for this meme to go viral.
These coal mine canaries have crossed beaks.

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