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Birds are dying from a mysterious illness in neighboring states

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

State wildlife agencies in several states, including Ohio and Indiana, are issuing alerts about a mysterious illness that’s killing an alarming number of songbirds.

Blue jays, robins, grackles, starlings, house sparrows, cardinals and cowbirds are affected by the illness. The birds behave as if they're blind before dying. Many of the agencies report birds have swelling around the eyes and a crusty discharge.

Wildlife biologists can’t explain why the birds are dying. State agencies are working with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the illness. 

The die-offs in Ohio are mostly in the southwest quadrant of the state. More than half the counties in Indiana are reporting bird deaths.

Birds that gather at feeders can spread diseases. The wildlife agency alerts are telling people to stop feeding birds. Agencies are instructing people to take down bird feeders and wash them using a 10 percent bleach solution. They also warn people to make sure pets don’t touch dead birds. People who pick up dead birds should wear latex gloves.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources told Michigan Radio in an email that there have not been any reported cases of bird mortality resembling those seen in the other states as of yet, but the agency is monitoring the situation.

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Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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