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Seeking information on rare and mysterious feather loss in terns

Steve Oswald, June 26, 2015

In July 2014 we observed a rare condition coined premature feather loss (PFL) among common terns Sterna hirundo at a small colony in northern Lake Ontario, Canada. This condition, which is potentially linked to a lake turnover event, is characterized by affected chicks losing all their wing, tail, head and body feathers several weeks after hatching. We are seeking input from the scientific community about (1) similar, unusual phenomenon among wildlife of Lake Ontario in July 2014 (or 2015) or avifauna anywhere, (2) advice on potential analytical approaches for current samples and sampling protocols and funding sources for any future PFL manifestations, and (3) other possible events in early July 2014 in Lake Ontario that may explain the reemergence of PFL among common tern chicks.

Extensive documentation of this event, including comparative photographs, is freely available online at [PeerJ Preprints] ( Please feel free to leave comments on this page or email us directly with any information you feel might be insightful.

Thanks to all those who have commented so far!