Jennifer Peaslee
June 17, 2021

UPDATE: Statement On Unidentified Songbird Illness Reported From Eastern U.S.

Date 07/14/2021

Please visit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/statement-new-songbird-illness/ for more information on the joint statement of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

UPDATE: USGS and Partners Continue Investigating DC Area Bird Mortality Event

Date 07/02/2021

In late May, wildlife managers in Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky began receiving reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs. More recently, additional reports have been received from Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. While the majority of affected birds are reported to be fledgling common grackles, blue jays, European starlings, and American robins, other species of songbirds have been reported as well. No definitive cause(s) of illness or death have been determined at this time. No human health or domestic livestock and poultry issues have been reported.

The natural resource management agencies in the affected states and the District of Columbia, along with the National Park Service, are continuing to work with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the cause(s) of this event. Those laboratories include the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program, and the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

The following pathogens have not been detected in any birds tested, based on results received to date: Salmonella and Chlamydia (bacterial pathogens); avian influenza virus, West Nile virus and other flaviviruses, Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses, herpesviruses and poxviruses; and Trichomonas parasites. Transmission electron microscopy and additional diagnostic tests, including microbiology, virology, parasitology, and toxicology are ongoing.

Birds congregating at bird feeders and bird baths can transmit diseases to one another. Therefore, the state and District agencies recommend the following standard precautions:

  • Cease feeding birds until this wildlife morbidity/mortality event subsides;
  • Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach mixed with nine parts water), rinse with water, and allow to air dry;
  • Avoid handling birds unless necessary. If you do handle them wear disposable gloves. If picking up a dead bird, place an inverted plastic bag over your hand to avoid direct contact with the bird; and
  • Keep pets (including pet birds) away from sick or dead wild birds as a standard precaution.

If you encounter sick or dead birds, please contact your state or District wildlife conservation agency for further instructions and to help them track this event. To dispose of dead birds, place in a plastic bag, seal, and discard with household trash or alternatively bury them deeply. Additional information will be shared as diagnostic results are received.

June 17, 2021

Although not recorded in NY yet, we are hearing reports from other states (along the East Coast to Ohio) of nestling and fledgling songbirds, including blue jays, cardinals, robins, starlings, and common grackles that are being impacted by an undetermined health concern presenting with ocular lesions and/or neurological issues. The ocular signs are similar to Mycoplasma gallisepticum, but appear to be different as there is no sinus involvement. Most common eye lesions include swelling, corneal lesions, and crust or pus in the eyes. The neurologic signs include head tremors or seizures, inability to stand or leg paralysis, and increased vocalizations.

Please take precautions if you are handling birds for rehabilitation or collecting for submission; wear gloves and appropriate PPE, and wash hands before touching other birds or animals.

Please contact your regional DEC Wildlife offices or the CWHL (cwhl@cornell.edu) with info on sick or dead songbirds that you find in NYS.   

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