How to keep your backyard birds healthy

INDIANA – The Department of Natural Resources recently updated its recommendations related to the bird disease outbreak.

Based on the data received from reports submitted by Indiana residents, it appears that the bird illness is consistently affecting specific areas.

Find which counties are continuing to be affected by this outbreak including Monroe County by clicking here.

In late May, DNR started receiving reports of sick and dying birds from Monroe County with neurological signs, eye swelling, and crusty discharge around the eyes.

A sick blue jay.

Earlier this summer, DNR recommended a statewide moratorium on bird feeding to slow the spread of the still-undetermined illness that is killing birds across our state. Hoosiers answered the call – removing feeders, cleaning birdbaths, and submitting more than 3,400 reports of sick or dead birds. Of these reports, DNR biologists confirmed more than 500 possible cases in 72 counties that involved a very specific set of clinical signs (crusty eyes, eye discharge, and/or neurological issues).

Multiple bird species have been reported as affected, including American robin, blue jay, brown-headed cowbird, common grackle, European starling, various species of sparrows and finches, and northern cardinal.

DNR staff collected samples and submitted them to the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory earlier this summer. DNR received final laboratory diagnostic results which ruled out common bird diseases like avian influenza and West Nile virus, but the cause or transmission of the disease outbreak is currently unknown.

Officials say one of the simplest and most effective ways residents can help wild birds is by regularly cleaning bird feeders.

Seed and suet feeders should be cleaned at least once every two weeks, and hummingbird feeders should be cleaned at least once a week.

Bird feeders can be a breeding ground for disease if not properly cleaned. Help your feathered visitors stay healthy year-round by scrubbing feeders with soap and water, followed by a short soak in a 10 percent bleach solution.