Songbirds across the continent are dying due to a mysterious illness that blinds and creates neurological damage



Early May, Washington DC reported that songbirds were dying of an unknown infection that was causing crusting and swelling over their eyes. It was also causing neurological damages that made the birds exhibit wobbly movements according to a statement by Unites States Geological Survey (USGS).


Initially the illness was seen in few states, but it has now spread across the nation and songbirds have been affected in the following states:


  • Washington DC
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Delaware
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky


Although the cause of the infection is still unclear avian experts have ruled out the following infections which generally affect these birds. These include


  • Avian influenza
  • West Nile virus
  • Salmonella
  • Chlamydia
  • Newcastle disease
  • Herpes
  • Trichomonas parasite


Initially the USGS had reported that the infection was affecting fledglings grackles and blue jays which are commonly to the mid-Atlantic region. Later many more birds’ species were added and some of the species of birds have been infected with this mysterious disease include


  1. fledgling grackles
  2. blue jays
  3. American robins
  4. northern cardinals
  5. brown-headed cowbirds
  6. sparrows


There have been hundreds of songbirds that have been affected with illness or death in the following states


  • Maryland — 325
  • Virginia — 450
  • Kentucky — 250
  • Indiana— 300


Environmental agencies, the USGS and the National Park Services are investigating the disease. They believe that birds that gather at bird baths and feeds could transmit the infection to other birds. They have asked the public to remove these feeders until the infection passes over.


Allisyn Gillet, an ornithologist at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said that the reason why these feeders should be removed was to allow the birds to social distance naturally.


People have been asked to use disposable gloves, to put dead birds into sealable plastic bags in the trash and to inform the USGS or their local wildlife authorities.


Birds have been affected by climate change and forest fires. However, capping of pollution as a result of the Clean Air Act has also saved the lives of birds.

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