Concerned About Songbird Deaths? Some Suggestions

LOWER FREDERICK PA – Worried about the number of news stories you’ve read lately about sick and dying songbirds identified by the Pennsylvania Game Commission? So, too, are members of the Lower Frederick Township Parks and Recreation Board. Board Chair Pam Reich on Sunday (July 18, 2021) repeated several commission recommendations in dealing with the problem.

The commission and Penn State Extension both report that a variety of songbirds that includes blue jays, common grackles, American robins, northern cardinals, and European starlings all are affected by an unknown illness. Among the birds’ symptoms are crusty eyes, seizures, difficulty standing, and head shaking.

No cause has been identified yet, but the commission and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine are busily testing the birds for pathogens and poisons. At least 70 birds in Pennsylvania showing the symptoms, according to reports.

For township and other residents who want to help in the “mortality event,” as the state describes it, Reich offers these suggestions from the commission:

  • Take down feeders to increase “social distancing” among birds, and to reduce the potential risk of the disease spreading;
  • Report any birds you find dead from apparent illness by using the Bird Mortality Report Form;
  • Wear disposable gloves to collect any dead birds, and place them in plastic bags for disposal in trash;
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling birds or feeders; and
  • Once the event has ended, and before returning feeders and bird baths to their places in your yard, wash and soak them in a 10-percent bleach solution.

Over the longer term, Reich added, one of the most important actions to take is to enhance natural habitats for birds: retain and enhance native plant communities, reduce amounts of lawn and hardscape, and minimize use of pesticides and herbicides. Natural areas support and maintain healthy bird communities, which are better able to withstand stressors such as illness.

Photo by Veronika Andrews via Pixabay, used under license