Scientists see high incidence of deformed beaks

From The Associated Press, Monday, November 8, 2010:

Federal scientists say they’re observing the highest rate of beak abnormalities ever recorded in wild bird populations in Alaska and the Northwest.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists say they have not been able to determine the cause and the deformed beaks could signal a growing environmental health problem.

Research biologist Colleen Handel says the prevalence of the deformities is more than 10 times above what is normally expected in a wild bird population.

Black-capped chickadees, northwestern crows, and other birds have been affected.

Scientists call it “avian keratin disorder,” in which the keratin layer of the beak becomes overgrown, resulting in elongated and often crossed beaks.

The deformities affect birds’ ability to feed and clean themselves.