West Nile Turns Down Volume on Songbirds

Scientists hear trouble in quieter North American backyards
By Sarah Levy,  Newser User
Posted May 17, 2007 1:44 PM CDT
'   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The West Nile virus is responsible for a major decline in North American bird populations, and the sudden quiet speaks volumes to environmental scientists. Beyond a lack of birdsong, a new National Zoo study reports, the decimation signals far-reaching ecological problems that have emerged since the mosquito-borne virus appeared on the continent in 1999.

The new analysis is significant because it correlates the incidence of human infection and the drop in the population of common songbirds, the Washington Post reports. And the repercussions sound like something out of Silent Spring: disruptions in the food chain and seed-dispersal systems, implications for international commerce, even the possibility of species collapse.