The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is continuing to try to figure out what illness is causing songbirds across the state to become sick or, in some cases, die.
As the number of counties with sick and dying songbirds increases, the DNR is asking Hoosiers to remove their bird feeders, including those for hummingbirds, and bird baths.
“We want birds to be able to socially distance naturally. When there are feeders, they’re immediately attracted to them,” Allysin Gillet, an ornithologist with Indiana DNR, said. “We need to better impose that on them so they can … feed on other things instead of the birdseed.”
The sick and dying songbirds were first reported in Monroe County in late May. As of Friday, there have been 285 confirmed sick or dead birds across 53 Indiana counties, but Gillet estimates there are hundreds of birds affected. Locally, Gillet says there have been higher numbers of affected songbirds in Marion, Hamilton and Monroe Counties.
Birds exhibiting similar symptoms have also been found in several states, including Ohio and Kentucky.
Samples from twelve affected birds from Monroe County have been sent to a lab for diagnostic testing.
“So far we are looking at every possible angle of this disease. We have ruled out West Nile virus and avian influenza, but we have made no direct connections between anything quite yet because we’re waiting on test results and those tests take some time,” Gillet said.
The DNR recommends keeping pets out of areas where there have been sick birds so they’re not eaten.
Gillet says they’re relying primarily on residents to report birds with symptoms online but are also trying to coordinate with wildlife rehabilitators.