Mysterious bird disease raises fears of spread | News, Sports, Jobs
IRON MOUNTAIN – A puzzling disease that kills songbirds in parts of the eastern United States has prompted wildlife experts to advise the public to watch what they see in backyard feeders – or maybe for now to stop feeding completely.
The mysterious disease – described as lethargic birds with swollen, crusty eyes and impaired neurological functions, including seizures and loss of coordination – has been identified since late May in Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio , Indiana, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
So far, no bird in Wisconsin has been confirmed to have the new disease, the DNR said in a press release Friday, adding that other conditions may have similar symptoms. Domestic finches, for example, are known to contract a bacteria that causes conjunctivitis with swollen, red, and crusty eyes and near-blindness.
Yet MNR has recommended residents clean and sanitize all bird feeders and baths. “regularly with soap and water, followed by rinsing in a 10% bleach solution.”
The Madison Audubon Society of Madison, Wisconsin took it a step further by posting a call on its website to remove all feeders – including hummingbirds and tallow – “by excess of caution”, adding enough natural food is available for the birds during the summer months. The company also recommended cleaning the feeders and letting them air dry but not hanging them up, even when empty.
If birdbaths are left out, as birds may need a source of water during the summer, they should be cleaned daily with a 10% bleach solution, hand dried. air and filled with clean, cool water, according to the Madison Audubon Society.
The Wisconsin DNR also requests that any sick or dead birds showing clinical signs be reported.
“Several wildlife laboratories, including the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, are working to identify the cause (s) of these cases,” he added. MNR vet Lindsey Long said. “There are many causes for these symptoms, so these groups have conducted extensive testing. As part of our ongoing wildlife health monitoring, we ask Wisconsinites to report birds with swollen or scabbed eyes so that we can investigate further. Sometimes we may ask to collect these birds for testing. “
A National Public Radio story from Jeff Brady said several bird species have been affected, according to the University of Pennsylvania: blue jay, common starling, common grackle, American robin, northern cardinal, house finch, House Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, and Carolina Wren.
“We saw a very large number of blackbirds and blue jays, in particular, and they were all younger,” said Belinda Burwell, a veterinarian cited in the NPR article who founded the Wildlife Veterinary Care group in Virginia, adding that birds “Swayed their heads very slowly, back and forth. “
Most cases so far involve four species: blackbirds, blue jays, robins and starlings, a July 2 release from the US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center said, according to the review. Science.
Early research on dead birds ruled out salmonella, several virus families and Trichomonas parasites, according to the Science magazine article.
Affected states have suggested a potential suspect. In May and June, parts of the outbreak area saw billions of periodic Brood X 17-year-old cicadas emerge from the basement, where they may have accumulated pesticides or other contaminants, according to Science.
But sick birds have been seen in areas where cicadas were also rare.
“It doesn’t look like a match” Brian Evans, migratory bird ecologist at Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, said in the Science article.
Michigan’s lower peninsula was in the far west of the cicada outbreak, but the disease has so far not been reported in Michigan. Michigan DNR is monitoring the situation, said Holly Vaughn, head of the DNR’s public outreach and engagement unit, according to mLive writer Emily Bingham.
So what should be done here in the Upper Peninsula? It never hurts to clean bird feeders regularly. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website recommends disassembling feeders and using a dishwasher on high heat or washing your hands, either with soap and boiling water or a solution of water. diluted bleach containing no more than 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Feeders should then be rinsed thoroughly and allowed to air dry – in sunlight, if possible – before filling them.
Those who encounter a bird in Michigan that they believe has a serious illness should report it to the MNR’s Eyes in the Field online page or call the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Disease Lab. Michigan at 517-336-5030.