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UPDATE! Wildlife Commission Monitors Mysterious Avian Disease

Author: NCWRC blogger/Friday, August 13, 2021/Categories: Blog, Conservation, Wildlife Management, Wildlife Watching

UPDATE! Wildlife Commission Monitors Mysterious Avian Disease

UPDATE 9/10/2021: Good news! The outbreak affecting songbirds since May 2020 seems to be subsiding and, thanks to diligent reporting by North Carolina residents, it appears not to have notably impacted birds in our state. READ MORE.
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Orginal blog post published 8/13/2021:

In late May, biologists began to receive reports of sick and dying songbirds in Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Infected birds appear to be lethargic and/or have crusty or swollen eyes.

The good news is the overall issue looks like it may be on the downswing and thankfully we have not seen many incidents in North Carolina. Only a handful of bird deaths and poor health events have been reported to our agency, and most of them look to be the typical causes of songbird death (e.g., window strikes, avian conjunctivitis spread at birdfeeders).

We continue to remain cautious and alert. We encourage the public to continue to notify us if they see unusual songbird health issues. If you find a deceased bird(s), email hwi@ncwildlife.org with a photo of the bird(s), including date found and location. Report sick birds to a licensed rehabilitator.

To reduce the spread of bird diseases, we recommend:

  • Remove bird feeders entirely until the threat subsides. At this time natural food sources are abundant.
  • If you choose to maintain feeders despite the above recommendation, please clean feeders and bird baths FREQUENTLY with a 10% bleach solution. Rinse with water and allow to dry before refilling.
  • Consider native plantings as a healthier, safer alternative to feeders. You can find a list of plants native to your area from the Audubon Society.
  • Avoid handling sick or deceased birds. If moving a bird is necessary, use gloves or an inverted plastic bag to prevent direct contact with it.
  • Keep pets (including pet birds) away from sick or deceased wild birds.

As we learn more, we will continue to share updates with the public. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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