DNR recommends removing bird feeders amid mysterious bird deaths statewide

INDIANA – The Department of Natural Resources is asking Hoosiers across the state to take down the feeders while the state investigates why several species of songbirds are dying.

DNR officials say songbirds including cardinals, robins, and blue jays – are getting sick and dying across the state, but officials are unclear why.

Starlings, blue jays, robins, grackles and brown-headed cowbirds seem to be taking the biggest hit, although other species are also affected.

Dead bird

Investigators say the birds have shown signs of a neurological illness. Symptoms include swollen eyes with a crusty discharge, breathing trouble, blood from the mouth, and weakness. Death often seems to come pretty quickly to the affected bird. It seems to be a virus and scientists are scrambling to find out what it is and how to stop it.

Officials have ruled out avian influenza and West Nile virus.

Sick Blue Jay

Sick birds have been found in 15 counties including Jackson, Monroe, and Washington counties, including Delaware, Hamilton, Johnson, Marion and Clark, Jefferson, LaGrange, Lake, Newton, St. Joseph, Union, and Whitley counties. Dead birds have also been found in Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.

As the department works with the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center to determine what is causing the bird deaths. Officials will publish additional information when final diagnostic results are received.

Officials are asking all Hoosiers across the state to remove feeders from their yards, including hummingbird feeders.

In addition to removing bird feeders, DNR officials recommend the following steps for Hoosiers 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 of household trash.
  • Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a precaution.