|Mallards were among the aquatic birds treated for botulism. Photo by J.J. Meyer|
The illness makes the birds floppy, or unable to hold up their heads; as it worsens they can lose the ability to close their eyes. The paralysis can quickly progress, leading to death. Botulism outbreaks occur periodically in lakes and ponds in Orange County and across the country, often during warm weather, and are caused by a type of bacteria known as botulinum.
People can sometimes help cause outbreaks by tossing bread into lake water to feed the birds. Bread can encourage bacterial growth. Please pass this on.