Wildlife Researchers Urge Bird-Lovers to Remove Feeders

You may want to clean your bird baths, too.

Several state wildlife agencies are urging residents to take down their bird feeders as a mysterious illness continues to spread among songbirds.

The illness was initially reported in late May in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. More recently, reports have come in from Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.

Marsh wren singing
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Birds like common grackles, blue jays, European starlings, American robins, house sparrows, Carolina wrens, and other songbirds have been affected.

Sick birds may present neurological symptoms like dizziness, tremors, or falling over. Their eyes may be swollen and have discharge or crust on them.

Though researchers have been studying the birds to find out what exactly the illness is, they don't have an answer yet. They have ruled out a few common pathogens, like Salmonella and the avian influenza virus, both of which have not been detected in the sick birds.

There is an investigation to see whether Brood X cicadas are somehow involved with the illness, but it seems unlikely that there is a connection, ornithologist Allysin Gillet told Indiana Public Media. "There are so many things out there that could possibly be causing this," Gillet said. "I think mystery is a good term to use for this because we really need to look at all the different angles of this disease."

To prevent birds from congregating in one place and potentially spreading the illness, wildlife researchers recommend taking down your bird feeders. If you have bird baths, spread them out and clean them every few days with a diluted bleach mixture.

Avoid touching birds, whether they look sick or not. If you have to handle one, be sure to wear gloves or use plastic bags to cover your hand. If you have pets that go outside, keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't come into contact with any birds.

Contact your local wildlife agency if you encounter a sick bird.

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