Buffalo’s harsh winter kills thousands of fowl

News and analysis by Dan Telvock, Investigative Post's environmental reporter

Many of us complained about this winter’s freezing cold. But we survived.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for a lot of birds.

Thousands of ducks along the shores of Lake Erie and Niagara River died from starvation due to the brutal winter this year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed today.

The widespread ice cover prevented the fowl from eating food in the water. State wildlife experts called the number of deaths “unprecedented.”┬áDEC tests did not reveal any infectious diseases in the waterfowl, the agency said.

Eastern Lake Erie and the Niagara River are habitats for 150,000 to 200,000 waterfowl, the DEC said.

Old man winter killed thousands of ducks like this one. f(Credit WGRZ)

Old Man Winter killed thousands of ducks like this one. (Credit WGRZ)

“This winter has been harsh to all wintering waterfowl, but especially to diving, fish-eating ducks, who can’t access food in ice-capped waters,” said DEC Senior Wildlife Biologist Connie Adams in a prepared statement.

“Because of cold temperatures and iced over waters, many birds have suffered food deprivation since early winter, and are only now starting to die off in great numbers. The small pockets of open water can’t provide enough food to sustain the massive concentrations of waterfowl.”

The dead duck sightings started in the second week of January. The most affected are the red-breasted mergansers and greater scaup, the DEC said. Other impacted waterfowl include American coots, lesser scaup, common mergansers, long-tailed ducks, white-winged scoters, bufflehead, goldeneye, canvasback, redheads, pied-billed grebes, horned and red-necked grebes.