Songbirds Are Getting Sick, and No One Knows Why

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The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is asking people to be on the lookout for sick songbirds in the area after reports of the issues from other parts of the country.

DEEP recommends state residents to take in bird feeders and birdbaths because of a recent disease spreading to wild birds in the country. 

According to DEEP, songbirds in the mid-Atlantic, Southeast and upper Midwest have been found in large numbers either dead or with undetermined neurological issues.

"The big issue is we don't know exactly what's going on. So there's a lot of folks out there working on figuring out what's happening and whether or not it's a transmissible disease that birds are communicating to each other," explained Brian Hess, a wildlife biologist with DEEP.

There have been no reports of sick birds in Connecticut yet but DEEP encourages residents to take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of diseases. 

"We've had a couple of anecdotal public reports that fit the symptom pattern, but none confirmed by a public lab so I can't honestly say yes it's here," Hess added.

Reported symptoms for affected birds include eye swelling and discharge, head tremors, leg weakness or inability to stand and excessive vocalizations. 

The majority of reported birds affected by the disease include but aren’t limited to common grackles, blue jays, European starlings and American robins.

In addition to the DEEP, The Connecticut Audubon Society recommends that residents cease feeding birds, clean birdbaths with a 10% bleach solution and to keep pets away from sick or dead birds. 

If you see a dead bird, wear disposable gloves and place them in a sealable plastic bag. Throw it away in the trash in order to prevent the spread of any disease. 

The DEEP Wildlife Division will continue to monitor the state and ask for residents to report birds in distress to local rehabilitators and to report deceased birds to Connecticut’s Wild Bird Mortality Database. They are working with experts across the country to get more information about this mystery illness.

"They're looking at things like is this related to some sort of toxin, either manmade or produced by bacterial or fungus, could it be a nutritional deficiency, or is it something like a pathogen or a virus or bacteria? All of these are kind of being examined and we're in the early stages of trying to figure out what this is," Hess said.

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