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Photo courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington

Birds are dying at an alarming rate across the region, and experts say bird feeders are most likely the source.

In late May, wildlife managers in D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia began receiving reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs.

No definitive cause of death is identified at this time, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources said.

The District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, and National Park Service are continuing to work with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the cause of the mortality event.

Those laboratories include the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, and the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program.

Birds congregating at feeders and baths can transmit disease to one another. Therefore, the state and District agencies recommend that the public in the outbreak area:

  • Cease feeding birds until this wildlife mortality event has concluded;
  • Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution;
  • Avoid handling birds, but wear disposable gloves if handling is necessary; and
  • Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a standard precaution.

If you encounter sick or dead birds in Virginia, please submit an event report at http://dwr.virginia.gov/.../bird-mortality-reporting-form/. If you must remove dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag to dispose with household trash. 

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(1) comment

Sandra Cruz-Pol

I believe it's because of the cicadas, many people are using chemicals to kill them, birds eat the cicadas, and die. Insect killers often contain neurotoxins that can cause paralysis and blindness in birds. The irony is that cicadas are harmless, actually help nature. Humans need to learn to live in harmony with the planet.

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