Investigation of Bird Mortality in the Playa Lakes of Southeastern New Mexico.Entry ID: brdnwhc0001
Purpose: 1. Estimate weekly migratory waterfowl use and mean duration of stay on
selected playa lakes in the Potash Area,
2. Estimate weekly migratory waterfowl mortality on the selected playas,
3. Determine the cause(s) of death of birds found on and around the selected
4. Determine if the ingestion of waters of selected playa lakes in
southwestern New Mexico causes ... deleterious physiologic changes in mallards,
with and without direct contact with the water.
5. Prepare an annotated bibliography of the existing literature on
the geology, hydrology, water quality, playa ecology, and historic
and current land uses in the Secretary's Potash Region in relation to
potential causes or contributing factors to migratory bird mortality
and the suitability of playas as wildlife habitat.
Playa lakes are shallow basins that are scattered through 140,000
square miles in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado.
They are characterized as water catchments that are most often
ephemeral, drain internally, accumulate sediment, and serve as
recharge points to underground aquifers. An estimated 31% (2,460) of
these playas occur in New Mexico. The playas are important wintering
areas for many species of waterfowl in the Central Flyway, and provide
refuge for many birds along this migratory pathway (Playa Lakes Joint
In the early 1990's the deaths of hundreds of migratory birds were
documented along the shorelines of several playas in southeastern New
Mexico in an area known as the Secretary's Potash Area. This area,
including parts of Lea and Eddy Counties, has been the subject of
mining and mineral development for 60- 70 years. Potash extraction
began in the early 1930's following the development of oil and gas
resources in the late 1920's, and continues today as a major industry.
The playa basins in this area have served as convenient discharge
sites for waters produced by these mining and refining operations.
The frequency, magnitude, and geographic extent of migratory bird
mortality in this region has not been assessed since there have been
no extensive surveys of historical and current bird use or mortality
on these playas. Likewise, the cause of death of birds dying during
the early 1990's has not been adequately evaluated. Necropsy of a
small number of birds found dead during 1993 suggest that physical and
physiological effects of high salt concentrations in certain playas
caused or contributed to their deaths. Concern has been raised that
constituents of discharge water from potash mining and/or oil and gas
development into playas may also be involved in causing mortality.
Water quality surveys performed on several of the playas experiencing
mortality in 1992 showed that there were significant differences in
many chemical and biological properties between playas that have
received discharges and those without a similar history (Davis and
Hopkins, 1993). Questions also have been raised concerning the
hydrologic and geologic relationships amongst the playas involved in
avian mortality. Information may exist on many of these issues, but
pertinent sources have yet to be collected and analyzed.
In April 1994, the National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) and the
Southern Ecological Science Center (SESC) received directives to
initiate a collaborative study investigating bird mortality in the
playa lakes of southeastern New Mexico. The NWHC was assigned lead
responsibility for the project in cooperation with the SESC and the
New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (NMCFWRU). A
literature survey on topics related to historic and current land use,
hydrology, geology, water quality, playa ecology, and bird use and
mortality were also to be included in the study.
Data Set Citation
Dataset Originator/Creator: Joshua Dein, Laurie Baeten
Dataset Title: Investigation of bird mortality in the playa lakes of SE N.M.
Dataset Release Date: August 1995
Dataset Release Place: Washington, D.C.
Dataset Publisher: National Biological Service
Start Date: 1994-10-01Stop Date: 1995-04-30
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION > ANIMALS/VERTEBRATES > BIRDS
BIOSPHERE > ECOSYSTEMS > FRESHWATER ECOSYSTEMS > LAKE/POND
BIOSPHERE > ECOSYSTEMS > FRESHWATER ECOSYSTEMS > LAKE/POND > SALINE LAKES
BIOSPHERE > ECOSYSTEMS > MARINE ECOSYSTEMS
BIOSPHERE > ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS > SPECIES/POPULATION INTERACTIONS > MIGRATORY RATES/ROUTES
BIOSPHERE > ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS > SPECIES/POPULATION INTERACTIONS > POPULATION DYNAMICS
BIOSPHERE > ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS > ECOTOXICOLOGY > TOXICITY LEVELS
Quality The data was screened statistically to identify possible outliers and
Access Constraints Individuals interested in obtaining the playa lakes data set should
contact Dr. Joshua Dein of the National Wildlife Health Center at
Biological Resources Division in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Use Constraints None
Data Set Progress
Role: TECHNICAL CONTACT
Phone: (608) 264-5411
Fax: (608) 271-4640
Email: joshua_dein at nbs.gov
National Wildlife Health Center Biological Resources Division U.S. Geological Survey 6006 Shroeder Road
Province or State: WI
Postal Code: 53711
Altmann, J. 1974. Observational Study of Behavior: sampling methods,
Behavior, Vol. 49, pp. 227-267.
Buck, W.B., G.D. Osweiler, and G.A. van Gelder. 1976. Clinical and
diagnostic veterinary toxicology, Kendall/Hunt Publishers, Dubuque,
Davis, D.R. and J.S. Hopkins. 1993. Lake water quality assessment
surveys; Playa Lakes. New Mexico Environment Department, Santa Fe, NM.
Franson, J.C., L. Sileo, and W.U. Fleming. 1981. Iatrogenic salt
poisoning in captive sandhill cranes. JAWA, Vol. 179, pp. 1211-13.
Hatch, R.C. 1977. Poisons causing nervous stimulation or
depression. Veterinary pharmacology and therapeutics, Iowa State
University, Ames, IA.
Playa Lakes Joint Venture. 1994. Draft management plan. USFWS Region
2, USFWS, Albuquerque, NM.
Riggert, T.L. 1977. The biology of the mountain duck on Rottnest
Island, Western Australia, Wildlife Monograph, 52:1
Shaw, P.A. 1938, Recent Progress in duck disease studies.JAWA,
Vol. 30, pp. 561-567.
Windingstad, R.M, F.X. Kartach, R.K. Stroud, and
M.R. Smith. 1987. Salt toxicosis in waterfowl in North
Dakota. J. Wildlife Dis., Vol. 23, pp. 443-446.
Wobeser, G.A. 1981. Diseases of wild waterfowl, Plenum Press, New
Wobeser, G. and J. Howard. 1987. Mortality of waterfowl on a
hypersaline wetland as a result of salt encrustation. J. Wildlife
Dis., Vol. 23, pp. 127-134.
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Creation and Review Dates
Last DIF Revision Date: 2017-08-23