TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — If you notice your neighbors taking down their birdfeeders, there is a good reason behind it.
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, around 150 birds in the state have contracted what is being called Songbird’s Disease. Nearly 40 counties have reported birds showings signs of eye discharge and neurological disorders.
Due to little information available on how transmittable this disease is, people are asked to remove birdfeeders and birdbaths from their yards until further notice.
Allisyn Gillet, Ornithologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said the department is operating on the cautious side.
“”We are taking a conservative approach by being as cautious as possible and assuming yes, it is transmitted through birds having interactions with each other. In order to prevent that from happening and congregating, we’re asking people to take down feeders,” She added. “We need to distance the birds,”
Songbird’s was first detected in late May in Washington D.C. Since then other states including Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia have had similar cases.
Indiana’s first reported case happened in early June in Bloomington.
Other symptoms include eye puffiness, head tilt, and disorientation. According to Gillet, most Indiana birds infected have died.
“Very few have been rehabilitated back,” Gillet said. “This is something that is much more distributed throughout the East and something since it is so widespread. It’s alarming to us because of how many birds there are with it.”
Though there are zero confirmed cases in Vigo County, parks like Dobbs Nature Center has cooperated with the state’s recommendation of taking down birdfeeders.
“It’s not that big of a deal for us and it won’t change operations. Whenever people come to Dobbs, they may not see so many animals out and about due to there being no feeders,” naturalist Carissa Lovett said.
With current temperature conditions, DNR officials say birds will still have plenty of options for food and water to clean themselves in, despite no feeders or birdbaths available.
While lab results will determine how infectious Songbird’s is, Lovett says failure to comply with the state’s recommendation could potentially result in a bird population decrease.
“It’s very important. The more species we have, the better our environment is and our ecosystems are healthy. If we can do something, we need to do it to keep everything healthy and figure out what this is to keep everything healthy and combat it,” Lovett said.
The following steps are recommended statewide:
• Use the DNR sick/dead wildlife reporting tool at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife to alert DNR staff.
• Stop feeding birds until the mortality event has concluded.
• Clean feeders and baths with a 10% bleach solution.
• Avoid handling birds. If you need to handle birds, wear disposable gloves.
• When removing dead birds, wear disposable gloves and place birds and gloves in a sealable plastic bag to dispose with household trash.
• Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a precaution.
Additional information will be shared when final diagnostic results are received.