The sickness and deaths of songbirds across the Mid-Atlantic States has led to regional nature conservation organizations asking residents to stop activities that cause birds to gather. On July 8th, an affected songbird was found in Erie County, Pennsylvania, which is the closest a bird has been found to New York State with the unknown illness.
Audubon Community Nature Center Executive Director Leigh Rovegno said the illness is not being called a virus because scientists have so little information as to what’s causing the mortality event. She said the United States Geological Survey has issued guidance for people who watch and, or, feed birds, “Taking down feeders right now, temporarily, and any bird baths that people have out. And that includes feeders for birds such as hummingbirds and orioles which typically use a different feeder. They’ve recommended that we just pause all of that until we have more information on what is causing this.”
Rovegno said afflicted birds are being found with crusted eyes that are sometimes almost crusted shut, “They seem very disoriented. It’s a combination of that crusty eyes but also some kind of neurological effect. So they often are found on the ground and look very disoriented.”
Rovegno said if you find a dead bird in your yard, you should not touch it if possible but, if you do need to remove it that you should wear gloves, place the bird in a plastic bag, and then dispose of it in the garbage. She said they currently don’t have guidance on whether birds should be sent anywhere for testing, “If people do find any birds that have those symptoms that are still alive, they should be reporting them either to the New York DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) or to a Pennsylvania similar equivalent. So right now, it’s very helpful to be tracking where these birds are being discovered so that they can keep an eye on how far the spread is.”
Rovegno added that after they take them down, homeowners should be cleaning their bird feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution to disinfect them.