Scientists explain dead duck phenomena along the lake front - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Scientists explain dead duck phenomena along the lake front

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(Horia Varlan/Flickr) (Horia Varlan/Flickr)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

By Wednesday night the waters opened up at Montrose Harbor, but not before three dozen ducks died from starvation.

FOX 32 News spotted two lifeless birds bobbing on the water near a sheet of ice. Evanston resident Ann Tanner, who happens to be a bird lover, noticed something unusual.

"These aren't like the Mallards that just tip up and eat plants. They dive for fish and crustaceans and things that are under water or on the bottom," said Tanner.

This winter has been brutal for fish-eating ducks unable to hunt amid sheets of ice.

"We're just looking very locally here in Chicago. There are reports of more dead ducks in other parts of the lake in Wisconsin, Michigan. We have no idea what the rate, what the actual mortality was," said Josh Engel, a Research Assistant at the Field Museum's Bird Division.

Inside the Bird Division at the Field Museum are deceased ducks collected from the lakefront. Engel said the specimens will be used in research.

"We weighed them and we were able to compare the weight to the typical weight," said Engel.

Engel describes the influx of bird deaths as a sad cycle of science and said there's little anyone can do to help.

"Over the weekend I actually encountered people who are sympathetic who were out there with fish they bought from the store for the ducks and the ducks were eagerly eating them but it's hard to say if that's a really good idea… So it's sort of a particularly sad situation because there is so little we can do about it," said Engel.

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