Biology & Health Research

Bordetella Avium Study
Tri-State assisted a researcher from Drew University (Madison, NJ) with a study regarding Bordetella avium and its prevalence in wild birds, in August 1999. This bacterium is a serious respiratory pathogen of domestic turkeys and chickens, but little is known of its occurrence in wildlife. Our participation in the study consisted of collecting blood samples from ducks, geese and turkeys. We collected these samples over a two-week period.

Waterfowl Genetics Study
Tri-State assisted Andrew Pacejka of the Biology Dept. at the University of Utah in his study on waterfowl genetics in 1998. Tri-State provided Mr. Pacejka with blood samples from 18 Mallards and Canada geese.

Lead Exposure & Pesticide Deaths
Tri-State assisted the USGS in this study in 1998-1999. The objective was to monitor environmental lead exposure in fish-eating birds by collecting blood samples and radiographs from all fish-eating birds admitted to the clinic. Tri-State participated in a second USGS study during this time period to determine the number of birds killed each year by environmental exposure to pesticides.

Diet Study in Mourning Doves
A study was conducted in the summer of 1999 to optimize the standard protocol for hand-raising nestling mourning doves, and to establish benchmarks for development of captive-raised birds. A new feeding technique was developed that reduced the normal tube-feeding process. A new diet was also developed and used. Results were presented by Elaine Yuhas at the 2000 NWRA symposium, and were published in the proceedings of that conference.

Coracoid Study
Tri-State assisted Charity Uman, a student from Tufts University, in this project in 2000. The objective was to establish various base line data for the incidence and treatment of coracoid injuries in birds of prey.

Long-bone Growth in Dinosaurs
In 2000 and 2001, Tri-State assisted Allison Tumarkin, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, with this unique study comparing the growth process of long bones in dinosaurs to that of birds. The theory is that vascularization and ossification cause bone surface texture to change as both birds and dinosaurs mature. If direct correlation can be made between surface texture and specific age of birds, this may provide a method of determining the age of dinosaurs (i.e., are certain bones from a juvenile dinosaur or an adult dinosaur?).

Polyoma Virus Screening
In 2001, Tri-State provided over 100 serum samples from a variety of species of birds to assist this study being conducted by Dr. Branson Ritchie of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Hopefully, these samples will help to determine if Polyoma Virus is more prevalent in wild bird populations than was previously believed.

West Nile Virus Survey
In 2001, Tri-State provided the Delaware Department of Public Health with 296 samples from 270 birds to test for exposure to West Nile Virus. Through a grant from the Mid-Atlantic States Association of Avian Veterinarians, Tri-State was able to collect these samples and analyze the data. Results from this study were presented at the MASAAV Annual Conference in April 2002. Tri-State continues to sample birds suspected of having WNV and is compiling annual data of trends of this disease in the DE-MD-PA area. In 2003, Tri-State sent a WNV positive crow to Rutger’s University for long-term monitoring of the effects of this virus on the crow’s immune system (most crows die quickly from this disease; however, this bird recovered, but never reached the stage of flying well enough to survive in the wild).

West Nile Virus Staff Survey
Since 2000, Tri-State has been collecting annual serum samples from staff members to monitor their exposure to this virus from handling infected birds. As of the 2003 samples, no staff members have been infected with the virus.

Steatitis in Great Blue Herons
Tri-State veterinarians worked with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the National Wildlife Health Center to investigate a small die-off of Great Blue Herons in northeast Maryland in the fall of 2001. Tissues from 5 birds were collected and analyzed; to date the cause of this fatal disease remains undetermined. Findings from this event were presented at the 2002 Southeast Fish & Wildlife Conference.

WNV/Hemoparasite Study in Great Horned Owls
During the summer of 2002, Tri-State provided blood samples from Great horned owls to a student at Bryn Mawr. The objective was to correlate levels of infection with the blood parasites Hemoproteus and Leukocytozoan with WNV infection in this species of raptor.

Conjunctivitis Project in House Finches
Starting in 2002, Tri-State has been providing conjunctival swab samples to a professor at the University of Delaware who theorizes that a new organism may be responsible for causing conjunctivitis in House Finches. In 1994, Mycoplasma gallisepticum was found to be the common cause of this eye infection in finches, but the new theory is that this bacteria may have mutated; genetic variation of MG could potentially pose a threat to other species besides house finches, including domestic poultry.

Mortality Study in Northern Gannet
Tri-State is providing data to a student at the University of Delaware who hopes to find some patterns and possible causes for the annual die-offs of Northern Gannet seen along the mid-Atlantic coast each July-September. Findings from this research will hopefully lead to future treatment of affected birds and possible prevention of the die-offs.

Avian Influenza Survey
In Spring 2003, Tri-State began collecting swab samples from waterfowl, gulls and shorebirds brought in for rehabilitation. These swabs are then cultured by researchers at the University of Delaware, as part of a study to evaluate the prevalence of Avian Influenza in wild populations of these species. Some strains of AI can affect domestic poultry and some strains may affect humans.

White Feathers in Crows
Early in 2003, a veterinary student from North Carolina State University used Tri-State’s case records to do a retrospective on crows with white feathers. For many years, veterinarians at Tri-State have noted a correlation between white feathers on crows and bone deformities and other health problems. The student’s compilation of information led to the design of a study to collect samples from these crows in hopes of finding a common cause of this condition. A portion of this study, conducted in the summer of 2003, was funded by the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association. Analysis of the samples is still underway.

 

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