The birds – primarily migratory water fowls such as Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Black-necked Stilts and Gulls – died at the Salton Sea after contracting a contagious bacterial disease known as avian cholera, which is caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) said in a statement.
Outbreaks such as the one that occurred between Jan. 8 and Jan 17 are not uncommon, typically taking place “annually as a result of birds flocking closely together during migration,” California Department of Fish & Wildlife said. The birds were found dead at the south end of the lake, which is located in the desert near the Mexican border and is a usual stop for migrating birds.
Avian cholera is spread through direct contact or from contaminated food or water.
“Birds are most susceptible to the disease during stressful periods, especially during the winter months when birds congregate at key water sources during migration, and the weather is cold and damp,” the CDFW explained.
In total, the California DFW said officials with the department and those with the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge collected more than 1,200 bird carcasses.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.