Red Tide suspected in first bird deaths found on Clearwater Beach

Published September 11 2018
Updated September 12 2018

CLEARWATER BEACH ó Two birds found dead late Tuesday are believed to be the latest victims of Red Tide and the first avian ones discovered in Pinellas County, officials said.

The double-crested cormorant and other unidentified bird found dead were the first locally reported bird deaths, said county environmental management director Kelli Hammer Levy.

A fish kill of unknown size was also reported to wash ashore at that beach earlier Tuesday. The massive bloom has already killed scores of sea life across the west coast of Florida, and the fish kill arrived in Pinellas County this weekend.

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The area has also seen stingrays and small sharks killed off by the toxic algae. But while dead manatees, dolphins and sea turtles have surfaced further south, Levy said Pinellas has not yet seen those kinds of deaths, adding: "Knock on wood."

RELATED: Red Tideís impact along Pinellas beaches: ĎItís overwhelming. You canít even breathe.í

Clearwater city staffers reported that the cormorant was seen acting very strangely and then died shortly after it was spotted. They contacted Levy, who reached out to a local bird expert and instructed staff to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

City staff put the birds in bags and put them on ice so the commission can test the animals to see whether Red Tide led to their deaths. Levy also gave the city the contact information for bird rescuers who can help any other sick birds that are found, or if anyone reports seeing a bird acting funny as a result of the neurotoxin.

RELATED: Red Tideís toxic toll ó your questions answered (w/video).

What exactly does an ill, oddly-acting bird look like?

"What Iíve been told is it kind of looks like theyíre drunk," Levy said. "They stumble. They canít stand up. They canít fly."

The fish that washed up on north Clearwater Beach came in with the tide and were left on the beach, Levy said. Officials are working on cleaning the area.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

Correction: Dead fish washed ashore Tuesday in Clearwater. An earlier version of this story was incorrect.