Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Chris Karatnytsky, a fairly new birder I met last March when we were watching a family of Screech Owls in the North Woods, sent the following communication:   

Dear Marie,

Thank you for the picture of the rose-breasted grosbeak on your
website. I've been seeing these in the ravine but didn't know what
they were.

I wanted to tell you about a sad experience I had yesterday that
others may find useful to know about.

On the evening dog walk on The Great Hill, I picked up a mysteriously
injured mourning dove that had been thrashing around on the ground
and had attempted to fly away from me in a very disoriented fashion
(almost upside-down). I wasn't able to get any assistance in Central
Park and finally wound up at Animal General on Columbus Avenue near 88th

The very kind bird specialist at AG examined the poor dove and
diagnosed paramyxovirus (PMV), apparently a common affliction among
pigeons and doves. (The disoriented flying was the clincher.) The
doctor didn't hold out much hope for my little friend but kept her
for observation, saying they would probably euthanise the bird to
relieve her of any suffering. I had been thinking perhaps she had an
injury that could be healed but this was not the case. Having spent
our walk with her little foot clutching my finger, I was very sorry.

Bird experts, of course, know that paramyxovirus is a contagious
avian disease, transmitted through standing water and carried by
mites that attach themselves to the birds' bodies and feathers. But
the average lay person, including neophyte birders like myself, would
not be aware of this. Normally, I imagine that nature would take
care of itself: a sick bird would hide itself to die under a bush
while healthy birds would fly away or roost, thus lessening their
chances of infection. Still, there is always a possibility of the
disease spreading through contact among birds. Any human coming
across such a sick bird would have to decide what they are able to
do, given the situation. Obviously, taking it to a vet would be
kind. This would ease the suffering of one ailing creature, as well
as decrease the possibility of a more widespread outbreak. I was not
cautioned to stay away from such birds or told that they presented a
danger to animals like canines and felines (or humans), but I washed
my hands very well afterwards nonetheless.

I hope the information is useful.