I-Team 8

Indiana calls on removal of all bird feeders; sick or dead birds now in 15 counties

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has received at least a dozen reports of sick or dead songbirds every week, and at least 100 in the last month.

On Friday, Natural Resources recommended Hoosiers remove bird feeders statewide.

The state on Friday also said sick or dying songbirds have now been found in 15 counties. The first reports of songbird deaths came from Washington, D.C., in early June before reports started coming in from the Midwest and at least five Indiana counties: Monroe, Clark, Jefferson, LaGrange and Lake.

Sick or dying songbirds have now been found in Indianapolis and Marion County, and the Indiana counties are Clark, Delaware, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, LaGrange, Lake, Marion, Newton, St. Joseph, Union, Washington and Whitley.

“I’ve never seen them exhibit the gooey eyes and crustiness in addition to the neurological symptoms,” said Natural Resources ornithologist Allisyn Gillet.

The department says it’s ruled out the avian influenza and West Nile virus as the cause.

“The fact that it’s happening kind of, in pretty different parts of the country, means that there’s probably something more complex going on,” said Daniel Becker, Indiana University postdoctoral researcher.

Becker says it’s a unique situation because the migration season doesn’t begin until the fall.

“We probably won’t see your migration occurring again until September, October,” said Becker. “Migration might not be playing a huge role in the spread of this disease, but depending on how long the epidemic goes on for, you might see a role for migration and spreading it more.”

Gillet emphasized the value of songbirds and noted that it’s important to take this seriously.  

“Birds in general have been in decline. There was a recent three billion birds lost report since the 1970s,” said Gillet. “It’s just like another threat that they have to face, they’ve been facing threats for decades now.”

The Department of Natural Resources lists these recommendations for anyone who experiences sick or dead wild birds on their property:

• Use the Natural Resources’ sick/dead wildlife reporting tool at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife to alert Natural Resources staff.
• Stop feeding birds until the mortality event has concluded.
• Clean feeders and baths with a 10% bleach solution.
• Avoid handling birds. If you need to handle birds, wear disposable gloves.
• When removing dead birds, wear disposable gloves and place birds and gloves in a sealable plastic bag to dispose with household trash.
• Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a precaution.