"Mystery of Bizarre Bird Deformities May Be Solved"

"ANCHORAGE -- Scientists working with sophisticated DNA sequencing technology think they may have solved a 20-year-old mystery of what has caused thousands of Alaska’s wild birds to be afflicted with deformed, twisted beaks.

The findings suggest that a newly discovered virus – poecivirus – may be the culprit behind the bizarre beak deformities in chickadees, crows, and other birds. Birds with the defective beaks, which sometimes cross like warped chopsticks, starve to death or die early.

The virus may endanger the health of bird populations around the world, particularly sensitive endangered species, says Colleen Handel, a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage."

Jane Kay reports for National Geographic August 16, 2016.

Source: National Geographic, 08/17/2016