Wildlife managers in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia have received an increasing number of reports about sick and dying birds in recent weeks, according to a statement from the U.S. Geological Survey.
The agency said birds have experienced eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs including tremors, keeping their heads tilted or having trouble balancing.
At least 325 reports of sick birds have been collected, and the condition appears to affect only young blue jays and grackles. A definitive cause of death has yet to be determined.
Birds can transmit diseases to one another when they gather at feeders and baths, so it’s best to let birds find their own food in the spring and summer when it is plentiful.
Environmental agencies recommend basic precautions such as avoiding handling birds without gloves, keeping pets away from birds and cleaning feeders with bleach.
If you encounter sick or dead birds, please contact your state or district wildlife conservation agency. If you must remove dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag and discard them with household trash.
The District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and National Park Service are continuing to work with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the cause of mortality.
Those laboratories include the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program.