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Starlings Mysteriously Drown En Masse Across The UK

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Scientists are baffled about the mysterious drowning of starlings in groups across the United Kingdom. The reason for this odd phenomenon is yet to be determined by experts, a new research by the Zoological Society of London said.

Researchers investigated 12 drowning incidents that involved starlings from 1993 to 2013 and they found that in 10 incidents, at least 10 birds died at the same time. This is rare for birds because drowning happens individually rather than in groups.

"Drowning appears to be a more common cause of death amongst younger birds, as they may be inexperienced in identifying water hazards," Dr. Becki Lawson, a wildlife veterinarian at the ZSL and lead researcher, said.

Since starlings are social species, it explains why they drown en mass. She added that since the number of starlings in the UK is declining, the need to know the cause of the phenomenon is important.

Water is important to birds, especially during the summer season. Experts urge the public to add a sloping exit or ramp to water resources to help birds and other animals to move away from the water easily.

The scientists said that the death of birds in this quantity was bizarre, even if since 1909, drowning among birds was more common in starlings than in other species. Post-mortem report shows that there is no evidence of other disease that might have contributed or might have led to drowning.

"Whilst drowning is an unexpected cause of death, it's not thought to be a conservation threat as – fortunately – these incidents are currently relatively rare. However, we still need to better understand factors such as disease that might be contributing to this decline," said Rob Robinson, a co-author of the study and the associate director of research at the British Trust for Ornithology.

Starlings, a red-listed animal, had a population decrease of 79 percent in 2012. In fact, a separate government report stated that 36 percent of all the bird species in the UK have declined in population between 1970 and 2013.

People are urged to report incidents of starling death through the Garden Wildlife Health website.

Photo: Keith Ellwood | Flickr

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