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Wildlife officials investigating mysterious illness affecting area birds

Recommend bird feeders be taken down
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Posted at 7:02 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 07:49:33-04

Indiana state officials are recommending people remove bird feeders statewide after reports of sick and dying songbirds, but it’s not just happening in the Hoosier State. Cases have been reported in Kentucky and Ohio, as well.

At this point, the cause of the illness in birds is unknown, but testing is being done to try and find answers.

“Birds are beautiful. People love to feed them, love to watch them,” Indiana’s state ornithologist, Allisyn Gillet, said.

Over the last few months, she said, birdwatchers have noticed something strange.

“Eye crustiness, eye discharge, swollen-ness in the eyes as well as neurological symptoms,” Gillet said.

She said an unknown illness is affecting and, in some cases, killing birds in several states. The symptoms have been most prevalent among blue jay, robin, starling, and northern cardinal species.

“We are looking into it right now,” Gillet said. “It’s been really hard to figure it out. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack without knowing what that needle is. We’re just trying to figure out based off those symptoms what to look for in particular.”

At least 15 counties in Indiana have reported the illness as well as several in Ohio, and Boone and Kenton counties in Northern Kentucky.

“They’re being very thorough,” said Christine Casey, a wildlife veterinarian with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, regarding testing being done on samples by local labs.

She said all possibilities are being looked into, including a potential link to cicadas.

“There is a fungus that is associated with the cicadas and there has been some hypothesis that it’s associated with this mortality,” Casey said. “There’s been weirder things that have happened.”

At this point, officials are recommending that people remove bird feeders.

“Because this is an unknown disease issue, we want to make sure it’s not something that’s contagious and being spread through bird feeders,” Carey said. “We’re recommending people take them down and clean them with a 10% bleach solution.”

Officials say if you have to remove a dead bird, make sure to wear gloves and place those gloves and the bird in a sealable plastic bag.