Sadly, several songbird species are dying this summer. The main species affected are grackles, starlings, blue jays, and robins, with a handful of other birds included. Interestingly, they are mostly the young of the season.
The first indications of die-offs started in May of this year in the Washington, DC area. Since the initial sightings, nine Midwest and eastern states have reported losses.
Clinical signs of sick birds include swollen eyes with crusty ocular discharges, lethargy, rolling of the head, confusion, and decreased responsiveness, leading to failure to thrive and subsequent death.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure.
Outbreaks are not uncommon in the avian world. Previous sources, including salmonella, avian flu, West Nile virus, and mycoplasma, were eliminated by scientists as the reason for this occurrence.
Researchers also concluded that trichomonas, chlamydia, avian pox, Newcastle virus, herpesvirus, and paramyxoviruses, were not involved.
Speculation regarding the Brood X cicada emergence as the cause was considered but rejected as the deaths occurred in areas not inundated with cicada.
At this point, the cause is undetermined.
Deaths are on the decline now. This may be due to the natural end of the nesting cycle instead of the disappearance of the disease. Therefore, resurgence may be a complication in subsequent nesting seasons.
The current recommendation to help minimize the spread of this disease is to remove your bird feeders and birdbaths. This reduces the number of birds congregating together and potentially spreading a contagion. Hummingbird, finch, and suet feeders are permitted as these feeders do not attract the susceptible species.
If you encounter a dead bird, notify your state wildlife agency.