NE Indiana seeing rise in sick, dying songbirds from mysterious illness

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – More reports of sick and dying songbirds are appearing around northeast Indiana.

According to Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources, more than 280 cases have been reported across 53 counties statewide since late May. In northeast Indiana, the affected counties are Allen, Grant, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Marion and Whitley.

During a press conference last Friday, state ornithologist Allisyn Gillet specifically called out a rise in cases in Allen and Kosciusko Counties.

Affected birds include blue jays, American robin, common grackle, starling, northern cardinal and brown-headed cowbird. Infected songbirds exhibit neurological symptoms, along with eye swelling and crusty discharge around the eyes. State officials are still trying to determine the exact nature of the disease but have ruled out avian influenza and West Nile virus.

As a precaution, the state is asking the public to take down bird feeders to limit the spread of this illness.

“The whole reason for this is because we want birds to be able to socially distance naturally,” Gillet said. “They don’t have that know-how that that’s not okay for them when there’s a disease going around.”

CountyNo. reported casesNo. affected birds
Allen2429
Grant23
Kosciusko418
LaGrange35
Whitley24
The total number of reported cases and birds affected by an unknown illness in northeast Indiana. This disease was first detected in Monroe Co. Source: Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Meanwhile, Fort Wayne’s Wild Birds Unlimited shop has published recommendations for those with bird feeders. These tips include:

  • Cleaning feeders and baths with a 10% bleach solution
  • Avoiding the handling of birds. If you need to handle birds, wear disposable gloves and place them in a sealable plastic bag to dispose with household trash
  • Keeping pets away from sick or dead birds
  • Following responsible bird feeding practices if you choose to continue feeding birds

If you notice any birds with these symptoms, the DNR asks that you report them on the state’s website.

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