Bird with mysterious ailment found in Erie County; local wildlife center answers common questions

Local News

A local wildlife center announced last week they found their first bird with the mysterious songbird ailment in Erie County.

Tamarack Wildlife Center announced on its Facebook page July 8th the center’s first patient was from Erie County and displayed symptoms of the mysterious songbird ailment.

According to the center, an American Robin was found in Erie County with crusty eyes that were held mainly closed. The Robin also twitched his head and was unable to stand.

At this time you are advised to take down your birdfeeders and birdbaths and disinfect them with a 1:10 bleach solution until more is known about the mysterious ailment.

Sick birds have not only been found in Erie County, but also neighboring counties like Erie, Crawford, Butler, Venango and Mercer counties as well.

Tamarack Wildlife Center posted the following commonly asked questions:

  • I have seen songbirds displaying symptoms of the mystery ailment (crusty or swollen eyes, stumbling, twitching) or multiple dead songbirds. How do I report this? In PA, report suspected cases here: http://www.vet.upenn.edu/…/res…/wildlife-futures-program If you are outside of PA, check to see what the reporting process is for your state.
  • There is a live bird on the ground displaying symptoms of this ailment. What should I do? In northwest PA, we will admit sick birds at Tamarack Wildlife Center. With gloves, contain the bird in a cardboard box with air holes. Call our center 814-763-2574 and leave a message to arrange for admission. In other areas of PA, consult https://pawr.com/ to locate your nearest rehabilitator.
  • I have found a freshly deceased bird and want to see if officials would like to have it tested. What should I do? With disposable gloves, double bag the deceased bird and cool it (without freezing) in a cooler, not a refrigerator used for human food. Then fill out the online reporting form: http://www.vet.upenn.edu/…/res…/wildlife-futures-program A wildlife disease technician will review your form, and contact you. If they want to use it for testing, they will come and pick it up from you.
  • I have found a dead bird. What should I do? If it was not displaying symptoms of this ailment, or is in poor condition, you can use gloves to bag it in something that seals, or double bag it (ie put it in a plastic bag, and then in a second plastic bag) and put it in the trash. Officials do not need to test these birds. Keep pets away from deceased birds.
  • I keep my bird feeders and baths clean. Why is it recommended that we take down all feeders and baths in PA, clean them with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, and leave them down? Thank you for keeping your feeders clean! You are being asked to take them down because those are areas where songbirds congregate and may be more likely to pass it from one bird to another. This disease is spreading rapidly, and we don’t know what it is at this time. It is hoped that taking down feeders will slow the rate of spread while research continues to figure out what it is.
  • Do I need to take down my hummingbird feeders? This aliment has not been found in hummingbirds, but because it has near 100% mortality, we are asking people to take down hummingbird feeders out of an abundance of caution.
  • Do I need to take down my bird houses? No. These are not areas where large numbers of different birds are going to congregate, so there is no recommendation to take down bird houses.
  • Should I be concerned about my poultry? There is no evidence of this affecting domestic poultry at this time. Some states are recommending poultry owners take precautions to minimize contact of their birds with concentrations of wild birds. Any unusual or unexplained death loss or illness among domestic poultry should be reported to the US Department of Agriculture Healthy Birds Hotline at 866-536-7593. Note: Coryza is a known poultry disease that can cause similar symptoms.
  • Which birds are being affected? So far it has been reported in twelve species: Blue Jay, European Starling, Common Grackle, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, and Carolina Wren.
  • What is causing this problem? That is not known at this time. Research is being conducted to try to find the answer. We know it is NOT: avian influenza, West Nile Virus, Mycoplasma conjunctivitis, salmonella, chlamydia, or Trichomonas parasites. Study continues to determine what it IS.

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