Birds in Charlotte County falling ill from red tide toxins

Reporter: Erika Jackson
Sign at Manasota Key beach warning of red tide. (Credit: WINK News)

First you smell it, then you see it – red tide. It’s plaguing the beaches on Manasota Key in Charlotte County.

The toxins from the red tide have been killing sea life but now it’s killing birds.

Pamela DeFouw, is the executive director of the Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida. She said, “We’ve definitely seen an increase of the birds coming in with red tide, a lot of what we’re getting are pelicans, a lot of different species of terns.”

She said they’re treating 50% more birds this week.

The birds eat fish killed by red tide and end up ingesting toxins.

“They’re very unbalanced, unsteady, they’re wobbling very disoriented,” DeFouw explained, “or they have the inability to stand.”

Birds impacted by red tide. (Credit: WINK News)

The center is working with different rescue groups to patrol Southwest Florida beaches. The quicker a bird gets help the better its chance for survival.

Some of the treatments used are oxygen therapy and fluid therapy but could include even antibiotics, and DeFouw calls it very labor-intensive work to save our precious wildlife.

If you spot a bird that could be intoxicated from red tide, the wildlife center suggests putting it in a box with a towel over its head. Then, contact the closest wildlife rescue group.

DeFouw said, “The more they’re laying on the beach, it really leaves them very vulnerable. You know, to be predated upon”

Local wildlife rescue groups:

Charlotte County
Wildlife Center of SWFL

Lee County
Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)

Collier County
Conservancy of Southwest Florida

Red tide fish kill along the Manasota Key shoreline. (Credit: WINK News)


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