Avian Keratin Disorder



This phenomenon was noticed on a large-scale in Black-capped Chickadees in Southcentral Alaska in the late 1990s. Dr. Colleen Handel began to research the issue in 1999. It is now believed that about 6.5% of the Black-capped Chickadee population in Alaska have the deformity. This is the highest concentration of such a severe abnormality ever recorded in a wild bird population! Although it was first noticed in Black-capped Chickadees, the deformity has now been reported in at least 30 Alaskan bird species. Nearly all are year-round residents and the geographic extent appears to be growing.

UPDATE! Recent findings suggest that a newly discovered virus (poecivirus–named for Poecile, the genus that includes chickadees) may be the culprit. Although the virus has been found in 100% of birds exhibiting avian keratin disorder, more research is needed to prove that it is the cause of the disease.

For more information visit the Alaska Science Center.

Have you seen a bird with a deformed bill? Please help Alaskan scientists track this phenomenon.

Follow this link to REPORT YOUR SIGHTING.