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Since May, a mysterious disease is being reported in songbirds in 10 states including West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, and now in 27 counties in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Game Commission is asking people to take down bird feeders and remove birdbaths.

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Affected birds are mainly young blue jays, starlings, and common grackles, but also robins, cardinals and other songbirds. The agency is investigating more than 70 reports in Pennsylvania.

Rachel Handle of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania said there’s no evidence it has spread into southwestern Pennsylvania, but people need to be on the lookout for the symptoms.

“The birds who are showing symptoms of the illness have conjunctivitis or neurological problems,” she said. “So they perhaps seem disoriented, and there have also been reports of bird deaths associated with the illness.” Birds have been described as having swelling and crusty eyes. 

Handle explains that removing birdfeeders and birdbaths is important because it “eliminates a place where birds can come together and possibly spread disease.” 

She says that it’s very important that feeders and birdbaths are cleaned weekly with a 10 percent bleach solution. People are also being cautioned to avoid handling dead birds and keep pets away. 

Research is ongoing to determine the cause. “There are so many variables involved, getting to that root cause right now just has not happened,” Handler said.

Experts are encouraging the public to follow these FIVE precautionary measures until more is known:
  • Cease feeding birds and providing water in birdbaths until this wildlife mortality event has concluded to prevent potential spread between birds and to other wildlife.
  • Clean feeders and birdbaths 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.

Report sick or dead birds online