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Can birds come down with laryngitis?

"One-third of all North American bird species need urgent conservation action."

This statement briefly summarizes the results of the 2016 State of the Birds Report — a report recently compiled by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI). The governments of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico created the initiative in 1999 and together, they have studied and disclosed the status of birds in North America.

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It is noted in the report that NABCI represents a tri-national commitment to protecting, restoring, and enhancing populations and habitats of North America's birds — with an integrated vision for "all birds and all habitats."

Birds in tropical and ocean habitats have been identified as those with the greatest conservation concern. And yet, all birds and all habitats need our help. There are 1,154 native bird species that occur in Canada, the continental United States, and Mexico, and this report was the first-ever conservation vulnerability assessment to address the status of each species. Species identified as those of highest concern have been named to a Watch List. For detailed information regarding the report, visit www.stateofthebirds.org.

Have you ever heard a crow with laryngitis? A few days ago, I was in the backyard listening to the chatter and songs of the birds. It was late in the afternoon, and after a few hours of relative quiet — naptime, perhaps — the birds were waking up and tuning up. It was nothing like the Dawn Chorus, and yet, the sounds were clear, and I almost felt as though I was eavesdropping. Not that I could understand anything they were saying, but they seemed to have a lot to share.

I challenged myself to identify as many of the "voices" that I could. My list wasn't very long: robins, cardinals, nuthatches, Carolina wren, house wren, towhee, catbird, house finches, titmice, and crows.

Boisterous crows.

This day, the crows were dominating the conversation — at least for a while. I have read that crows have tremendous versatility of voice and are able to mimic the sounds of other birds and animals and more. They are social birds that spend a lot of time together, and they are strong communicators with a language of their own. The group in the backyard jabbered for a while — until something distracted them and all but one flew off towards the woods.

The lone crow that remained sat on a limb of the dead locust tree — a leafless tree that attracts insects and thus provides food for woodpeckers and other bird species. The bird began to make a peculiar sound — a whining, forlorn, weak caw. It sounded sick, and I had to wonder if it had laryngitis.

But, can birds actually get laryngitis?

Here's what I found out. Birds, including crows, have a larynx but no vocal cords. In humans, our voice box is our larynx, and that is where our vocal cords are and where our sound originates. Since birds have no vocal cords, it is believed that the larynx has little to do with how they call or sing. It's all very scientific and difficult to explain.

However, since laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx, and birds do have a larynx, it seems logical that birds, like people, can get laryngitis. A quick online search resulted in a few reports of domestic birds with respiratory infections that seem to back up my theory.

If you are curious to know why some believe that crows have the intelligence of a 7-year-old child, check out this link to the Audubon website: http://www.audubon.org/news/bird-iq-tests-8-ways-researchers-test-bird-intelligence.

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