Unusual gull mortality event?

In late September, over a dozen dead gulls, both herring and great black-backed, were found on a single island in Boston Harbor. There have been numerous cormorants found sick or dead recently, and there is concern among veterinary and public health officials that Newcastle Disease, an intermittent scourge of cormorants, could have crossed into the gull population.


Dead gulls retrieved from the rocks around Little Brewster Island last month. (photo by Sally Snowman)

There is no way to know whether Newcastle is the cause or death, or whether it’s something else entirely, or even whether all the gulls died of the same thing, without performing necropsies on the birds.

We are asking all our keen eyed gull observers to be on the lookout for sick or dead gulls (or other species of bird, for that matter), particularly if it seems like an unusually high number for the location.

If you do see such a thing, please let us know. If the bodies are fairly fresh, we may be able to come retrieve them and transport them for necropsy. Thank you, as ever, for everything you all do in service of understanding these creatures and their wider world, including whatever might be killing them.

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