Birds are mysteriously dying in Pa.: More than 1,000 cases reported

Written by on July 9, 2021

Birds are mysteriously dying in Pa.: More than 1,000 cases reported

By Megan Frank

July 9, 2021

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

More than 1,000 dead birds with a mysterious illness have been reported across Pennsylvania in recent weeks. 

Listen to the story.

Researchers say cases spiked over the July 4 weekend.

Peter Saenger is an ornithologist at Muhlenberg College. He says the sick birds have symptoms like eye discharge or eye crusting, lesions on the eye and may appear to tremble. 

“They’ve ruled out all the common stuff, like West Nile and salmonella,” Saenger says. “They have over a thousand specimens at this point and over half of them are from southeastern Pennsylvania.” 

Saenger, who is also president of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, says it’s unusual for the source of such widespread sickness to remain a mystery for long. He says it’s important to find out what’s going on.

“Birds are perfect indicators of environmental health,” Saenger says. “The birds are bringing a problem to our attention.”

In the meantime, Saenger says people should take down bird feeders and baths, clean them, and put them away to stop the illness from spreading from one bird to the other as they gather. 

“Birds concentrate at bird feeders where they can easily transmit diseases and infections to one another,” says Saenger. “Removing your feeders, shutting down your bird baths, makes sense. Birds really do not need our supplemental food at this time of the year.”

Saenger says people who find a bird with this condition should report it to the Pennsylvania  Game Commission. The agency also recommends disposing of dead birds in a sealed plastic bag to prevent transmission.

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