Unknown Bird Illness Information (Updated 8/19)

Dear Friends,

You may have heard the sad news that there have been multiple reports of mysterious bird deaths in various parts of our state. At this time, the overall scale of this outbreak and the cause of the bird mortalities are not known. In addition, while the deceased birds were originally reported in the Washington DC area, they have also been found in parts of Northern Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Maine, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Both State and Federal Wildlife officials are actively looking for answers. 

There is much speculation as to potential causes, including that this illness might be related to the Brood X cicada emergence in some way. The timing and geographical location of these occurrences makes this an interesting idea, but nothing has been concluded and this is purely speculation.

What we know so far:

  • Symptoms include swollen, crusty eyes and balance/neurological issues.
  • There is no known cause or cure at this time.
  • Lab results have ruled out the most common diseases that would typically impact feeder birds in our area.
  • Testing is ongoing. We are all waiting for further results.
  • Because there are many unknowns, wildlife officials have requested that bird feeders and bird baths be taken down until the cause of the mortalities has been determined and/or the event has ended. This is to reduce the number of birds congregating in one area in order to limit the spread of this malady should it be something contagious.
  • Pennsylvania and Maryland have lifted their recommendations and stated it is safe to resume birdfeeding. Delaware has not yet removed theirs and is still asking people to keep feeders and baths down.

If you choose to continue feeding the birds, please clean and sanitize your feeders as soon as possible. If you observe a sick bird…stop feeding, sterilize your feeders again, and keep them down over the next few weeks. In addition, please report any birds exhibiting symptoms in Pennsylvania. Unknown Bird Illness in Pennsylvania If you are in Delaware go here. Unknown Bird Illness in Delaware

The key to keeping birds safe is to ALWAYS be a responsible bird feeding hobbyist. Keep your bird feeders and bird baths clean! Please refer to our recommendations for Responsible Bird Feeding shown below. 

The health and well-being of birds is our number one priority! We know that under normal circumstances, feeding the birds can have a tremendously positive effect on them when done responsibly. Feel free to stop by our store or call us with any questions. We appreciate your support as always! #savethesongbirds

Responsible Bird Feeding Techniques

If you enjoy feeding and watching your backyard birds, then you probably want to do as much as you can to practice your hobby safely and ensure the birds’ overall health and well-being. While the incidence of birds falling ill from feeders is small compared to other natural hazards birds face, there are things you can do to help your birds stay healthy.

  • Provide multiple feeding stations in different areas of your yard to disperse bird activity.
  • Provide seed from a bird feeder rather than scattering it on the ground.
  • Keep areas clean under and around your feeders.
  • Keep fresh seed in the feeder and be sure it doesn't get moldy.
  • Clean your bird feeders regularly with a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water.
  • The following strategies will help improve the health and safety of birds when the spread of avian diseases is a concern.
  • If feeder birds are exhibiting disease symptoms, then remove all feeders so local birds can disperse and utilize natural food sources.
  • Clean and sanitize all bird feeders, bird baths and hardware with a 10% bleach (one part bleach to nine parts water) solution. Rinse thoroughly and allow to completely dry before refilling feeders. Continue to sanitize feeders every few days.
  • Rake up and discard seed debris and bird droppings from the ground below and around feeders. Continue to clean these areas on a regular basis.
  • Give the birds more space. If using multiple feeders, place the feeders farther apart from one another. This will reduce crowding, lower stress and lessen the potential for disease transmission between sick and healthy birds.
  • Only use feeders that can be easily cleaned. Replace wooden feeders with ones made of plastic or recycled materials for easier cleaning.
  • Bird feeders with cracks and crevices are difficult to sanitize and should not be used.
  • Remove open tray and platform feeders that allow fecal material and food to come into contact with each other.
  • Use antimicrobial bird feeders such as Wild Birds Unlimited EcoClean® Feeders. These feeders have built-in antimicrobial product protection on the treated surfaces.
  • Limit the amount of seed you provide. Offer only as much food as the birds will eat in one or two days.
  • Store all bird seed in rodent- and insect-proof containers to avoid contamination.
  • Always discard any seed that has become wet, moldy or foul smelling.
  • Avoid handling sick birds and always wash your hands with soap and water after filling bird feeders.