'Lethargic' red knot birds found along Pinellas beaches rehabilitating

By Melissa Eichman, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, August 26, 2017, 3:43 PM EDT

Five young red knot birds found along Belleair Beach and Sand Key are currently being rehabilitated at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores.

  • 10 birds found originally
  • Birds could have been victim of toxin
  • Birds currently being tube fed, not eating on their own

"When they came in they were lethargic, not eating," said Eddie Gayton, Operations Manager with Seaside Seabird Sanctuary. "We weren’t sure what the cause was, so we sent a couple birds over to our veterinarian and she did an exam, and with her exam she couldn’t find anything except for a possible toxin."

The young birds are being tube-fed.

"Keeping them hydrated, since they're not eating on their own, they're also getting supplements, said Keith Wilkins, Hospital Manager. "Get them the nutrients they're not getting from eating on their own, and plus the little anti-toxin in it as well."

The birds -- 10 in all -- started showing up on beaches from Belleair Beach to Sand Key on Aug. 20. The five that have survived are showing improvements.

"Could be anything from a bad batch of fish, maybe because of botulism and FWC also has received a water sample from the area and they’re gonna test that for possible red tide," said Gayton.

A necropsy of one of the dead birds is being performed at Busch Gardens.

The FWC says water was tested in the Caladesi area, those results are expected in several days. Meantime, Gayton says the public can help protect these migratory birds, which are a "threatened" species.

"We don’t want anyone to overreact, but if they are on the beach and they do see a red knot that is laying in the sand and it’s there for more than fifteen minutes without standing up and walking away, we would like to get a call," said Gayton.

Call the hotline at 727-391-6211 or call the Clearwater Audubon Society at 727-798-2385.

Photo: Melissa Eichman, staff