A mortality event is currently sweeping across America, where in the South and Midwest birds are being found dead and dying due to an unknown cause. If the mass deaths are being caused by a disease, its identity remains to be seen but a body of symptoms is building. Birds have been behaving as if they are blind and not practicing the avoidance of humans which is normal and an indicator of health in wild animals.
Affected birds have also been spotted with crusted and swollen eyes, though if this is the cause of the “blind” behavior isn’t known yet. It’s possible the illness is having an impact on the birds’ neurological health too as birds have been seen losing their balance and shaking in a way that could indicate a seizure.
Concern is building for the mysterious condition, which has now been reported in several states including Kentucky, D.C., Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. While it’s already known that the condition isn’t limited to a single species, a Facebook post from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources expresses that some birds seem to be more commonly affected by the illness than others.
“We are receiving reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs,” they wrote in a Facebook post. “Other states have reported similar cases. No definitive cause of death has been identified at this time. To date, sick or dead Blue Jays, Common Grackles, and European starlings have been reported, but other species may be affected as well.”
An investigation is underway to try and pinpoint the cause or causes behind the mass deaths, though it’s expected that isolating the trigger could be a lengthy process. It's not yet known if the deaths are linked to the mortality event in New Mexico last year.
According to a report from NBC News, wildlife biologist Laura Kearns of the Ohio Division of Wildlife has expressed that infectious disease, pesticides, and even the cicada outbreak are suspects. Cicadas have themselves fallen victim in 2021, as their 17-years-in-the-waiting debut party was crashed by a bizarre fungus which turns them into “flying saltshakers,” but at the time of writing there is no evidence to suggest this is the cause of the bird deaths.
If you live in one of the affected states, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources advises to clean bird feeders and baths with a 10 percent bleach solution and repeat weekly. They’ve also warned against handling birds and allowing pets to investigate sick or dead wild animals as a precaution.
For more advice and information regarding the mortality event, click here.
[H/T: NBC News]