Songbirds dying across 11 states as researchers work to uncover the cause
Earlier this spring, a mysterious illness killing young songbirds began spreading across several mid-Atlantic states. Today as many as 11 states are affected, including Indiana, but researchers still don’t know what is causing the deaths.
Here is what is known so far:
- The affected birds are primarily fledgling blue jays, European starlings, common grackles, and robins.
- Birds present with swollen and crusty eyes, blindness, balance issues, head tremors, and other neurological symptoms.
- The disease appears to be consistently fatal to affected birds.
- The disease first appeared in the mid-Atlantic states, but has been rapidly spreading.
- Researchers have ruled out avian flu, salmonella, chlamydia, West Nile virus, herpes diseases, and more.
Some researchers are looking into a possible link to the spring emergence of the Brood X cicadas, which can carry a pathogenic virus, but no link has been established yet.
Until more is known about the source and nature of the disease, it will be important to stay vigilant.
Bird Experts Recommend Extra Precautions
With the potential impact unknown, including whether the disease can affect more than just songbirds, scientists and wildlife experts recommend taking precautions:
- Stay alert. Keep apprised of the changing situation in your area, especially if you feed birds or have birds nesting on your property.
- If you are in or near the affected areas, take down all bird feeders and bird baths, clean them with a 10% bleach solution, and keep them put away for now, and remember to wear gloves. Birds, especially the species most affected, congregate at these places and if this is a contagious disease, limiting unnatural congregations can help slow the spread, as with the social distancing precautions used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among people.
- While there is no indication that poultry are at risk, officials recommend taking steps to keep wild birds away from domestic stock, especially food and water sources. As we have recently experienced with Covid, diseases can evolve and jump to new species. Beefing up biosecurity measures could ensure the safety of more than your flocks.
- If you find a sick or dead bird on your property, report it to the Department of Natural Resources as soon as possible and follow any instructions provided. They may ask you to take it to wildlife rehab or have a researcher pick it up for testing. Wear gloves if you must handle it.
At Migratory Bird Management, we will monitor any new developments and are taking extra precautions when working with songbirds. Give us a call if we can address any concerns you have about the best way to protect your poultry flocks and prevent intrusion by wild birds. The safe and effective management of bird conflicts is our specialty. Call us to learn more about steps to protect your safety and biosecurity.