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US Scientists Race to Discover Why Wild Birds Are Sick and Dying

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Wildlife experts have reported a noticeable increase in sick and dying birds in the past 30 days. Hundreds of blue jays, common grackles, and European starlings are the most common Aves (biological classification for birds) among the species discovered in at least six states and Washington, D.C., according to an NBC report on June 22, 2021.

Kate Slankard, an avian biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the state is experiencing an unusually high number of bird deaths this year. “We have yet to figure out what the problem is. The condition seems to be pretty deadly.”

The Aves exhibit crusty or puffy eyes, signs of neurological seizures, and an inability to balance. Experts report that the birds display unusual behaviors such as appearing to be blind and other peculiarities — not flying away when humans are close.

Slankard explains that they simply sit still. Some of them a “kind of shaking.” She concludes it is fairly safe to assert that hundreds of birds in Kentucky have had this problem.

In addition to Kentucky and D.C., officials reported similar mortality rates in Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Slankard said:

We’re all working together as a multistate group to try to figure out what’s going on. Diagnosing these problems is complex because several rounds of lab tests must be done.

Laura Kerns, a wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, shares some theories about what might be the root of why these birds become sick and die. It could be a widespread infectious disease, the cicada outbreak, and pesticides. Hundreds of Aves have been discovered dead in Ohio, says Kerns.

BirdFive Indiana counties have seen suspicious deaths of brown-headed cowbirds, northern cardinals, blue jays, and robins. A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, James Brindle, told reporters the birds in this state have tested negative for West Nile virus and avian influenza.

In September 2020, wildlife experts in New Mexico said the Aves in the area were “dropping dead at an alarming rate” — potentially hundreds of thousands.

Scientists in New Mexico were baffled by the deaths. Wildlife experts are not sure if the two incidents are associated.

They ask for the public’s assistance by reporting any suspicious bird deaths by calling the local wildlife department or using the iNaturalist app (available on Apple and Google play). Avoid handling the Aves, using gloves when moving them.

Moreover, wildlife experts urge people to remove their bird feeders since it is possible the birds could exchange germs. If bird lovers continue to use feeders, they would be cleaned with a 10 percent bleach solution. They also recommend avian baths and water features be cleaned in the same method.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Source:

NBC News: Scientists don’t know why hundreds of birds are getting sick and dying across the U.S.; by Deon J. Hampton

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of ephien’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Richard George’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Cathy Milne-Ware is the Editor-in-Chief for Frackle Media and lead instructor for St. Agatha's News School. She enjoys helping youth discover their unlocked potential and helping them find their voice. As an instructor, her goal is to teach them the power of words and develop strategies that will serve them in the future by teaching effective communication skills including critical thinking and a sense of belonging. Cathy strives to be an advocate and mentor for each intern.

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