As you may have heard by now, a morbidity/mortality event has been occurring in nestling and fledgling songbirds in the mid-Atlantic and extending into the Southeast and eastern upper Midwest. Since mid-May, numerous young birds – mainly blue jays, starlings, and common grackles, but also robins and cardinals – have been found with ocular and neurologic issues, and in some cases these birds have been found dead in large numbers—up to 16 in one location.
Geographical distribution:The “epicenter” appears to be Washington, DC, with rehabilitation centers in that area receiving the largest number of cases (over 100/center). Cases have been reported from TN, KY, VA, WV, MD, DE, IN, OH, FL, and recently from southeast PA (Nottingham, in Chester County).
Possible Causes:At this point, no one knows for certain if all the cases are truly related with a single etiology, or if multiple things are occurring. Many diagnostic lab findings are still pending and nothing definitive across all the morbidities/mortalities has been identified.
What Can You Do?1) If you observe a dead bird, please submit the form, found on the below mentioned link. Do not touch the bird(s), see instructions in item 2 below.
2) If the bird is to be tested or you wish to remove the bird from your yard: Double bag the bird by turning a plastic bag inside out and using it to pick up the dead bird, turning the bag right-side out in the process so that the bird ends up inside the bag. Place that bag inside a second bag and seal the outer bag. If your bird is going to be tested, bagged birds should be kept in a cool area, on ice, but not frozen, if possible (i.e. small Styrofoam or insulated cardboard box); and wash hands well afterwards. In Pennsylvania, contact Wildlife Health Technician, Ian Gereg at (610) 858-2180 and arrange for the bird to be picked up. If the bird is not going to be tested, throw away the bird (double bagged), in your normal trash service.
3) Prevent disease spread: Until we know for certain what the cause is, we must assume that it might be infectious. Stop feeding birds and remove all feeders until the event is over or a cause has been determined. Take down feeders and bird baths, to thoroughly clean them with rubber gloves, and then disinfect with a 10% bleach solution and allow them to air dry. Thoroughly wash your hands after handling bird feeders or baths. Keep pets away from any sick or dead birds. And finally, please report any additional sick or dead birds you find. For a recent press release on the event, visit www.vet.upenn.edu/wildlife-futures