DNR: Hoosiers should remove all birdfeeders; mysterious disease killing songbirds

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INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) – The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has received reports of sick and dying songbirds from 15 counties statewide and is recommending that all Hoosiers remove their birdfeeders statewide. This includes birdfeeders for all types of birds.

The disease was first reported during the second week of June.

The affected songbirds are showing neurological signs of illness, as well as eye swelling and crusty discharge in 15 reported counties: Clark, Delaware, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, LaGrange, Lake, Marion, Monroe, Newton, St. Joseph, Union, Washington and Whitley.

The DNR said several samples were sent to the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory for testing. All bird samples submitted have tested negative for avian influenza and West Nile virus. The final laboratory diagnostic results are pending.

The department is also working with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center to determine the birds’ cause of death.

DNR Ornithologist Allisyn Gillet explains the reasons behind removing birdfeeders across the state: “We need to allow these birds to socially distance like we had to as well, and make sure that they don’t potentially cause the spread if it is contagious and transmitted through them interacting with each other. And so birdfeeders provide that central area where they can interact with each other a lot, just like us being at a restaurant together…it’s a similar idea.”

The DNR is recommending the following steps statewide:

  • Use the DNR sick/dead wildlife reporting tool at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife to alert DNR 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.

The DNR said additional information will be shared when final diagnostic results are received.

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