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Great Blue Heron Steatitis in Maryland

Debilitated heron diagnosed with steatitis collected from a freshwater pond in MD. (Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Debilitated heron diagnosed with steatitis collected from a freshwater pond in Maryland. (Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

In fall 2004, an abnormal number of great blue herons were diagnosed with steatitis (also called “yellow fat disease”) in Maryland. The sick or dying birds were found in areas where cyanobacterial blooms were ongoing. The Harmful Algal Bloom Event Response Program provided funding to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to support toxin analysis in tissue and water samples to determine if cyanobacterial toxins contributed to the development of steatitis in the affected great blue herons.

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