2 July 2021
UPDATE 13 Aug 2021: The PA Game Commission has announced an end to bird feeding restrictions. The illness has faded away on its own.
The mysterious songbird illness that is blinding and killing songbirds in six states has now spread to Pennsylvania and Delaware. Yesterday the PA Game Commission advised the public to remove feeders and bird baths to slow the spread.
Symptoms of the illness include a discharge and/or crusting around the eyes, eye lesions, and/or neurologic signs such as falling over or head tremors. Infected birds always die. Scientists are investigating but still don’t know what’s causing it.
The disease has been reported in 27 Pennsylvania counties in these species: blue jays, European starlings, common grackles, American robins, northern cardinals, house finches, house sparrows, eastern bluebirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, Carolina chickadees, and Carolina wrens. Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark, DE has found that the disease primarily affects fledgling European starlings, blue jays, and common grackles.
Yesterday Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP) joined the PA Game Commission in urging the public to follow these precautionary measures:
- Cease feeding birds and providing water in bird baths until this wildlife mortality event has concluded to prevent potential spread between birds and to other wildlife.
- Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution.
- Avoid handling dead or injured wild birds. Wear disposable gloves if it’s necessary to handle a bird.
- Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a standard precaution.
- To dispose of dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag and discard with household trash. This will prevent disease transmission to other birds and wildlife.
To underscore the point, Audubon Nature Stores will discontinue the sale of seed and bird feeders for the time being.
Do your part. Stop feeding birds until this wildlife crisis is over.
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UPDATE, 2 July 2021: The mysterious illness has now been reported in DC + eight states: VA, WV, MD, PA, DE, IN, OH, KY and more closely matches the Brood X cicada map though this may be a coincidence. My revised attempt at mapping the bird death hotspots, below, is just a rough idea not the whole story. i.e. Do not rely on my map!
UPDATE from PA Game Commission, 8 July 2021 (posted here on 21 July): As of 8 July 2021 Wildlife Futures received 1,525 reports of dead birds in Pennsylvania. Roughly 25-30% (approximately 500) are likely associated with the current songbird mortality event. To date, the morbidity/mortality event appears to be targeting fledgling common grackles, blue jays, European starlings, and American robins. So far the following pathogens have been ruled out: Salmonella, Chlamydia, avian influenza virus, West Nile virus, Newcastle disease virus, herpesviruses, poxviruses, and Trichomonas parasite.
(photo from NPS via DNREC, maps from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the captions to see the originals)