Central Indiana Counties Still Affected by Songbird Illness

American robin
The American robin is among the songbird species affected by the disease.

Jan Dommerholt photo on Unsplash

Although residents of most of Indiana’s 92 counties may resume feeding songbirds, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking central Indiana residents to continue precautions as a mysterious songbird illness remains unsolved.

DNR asks residents of the following counties not to put out feeding stations until further notice: Allen, Carroll, Clark, Floyd, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Lake, Marion, Monroe, Morgan, Porter, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, Whitley.

The songbird illness was first reported in May with sick or dead birds found with neurological symptoms including eye swelling, and crusty discharge around the eyes.

DNR: Take Down Bird Feeders to Help Stop Spread of Songbird Illness

Since then, DNR along with scientists in other states have been attempting to identify the cause of the illness.  Hoosiers who find birds with these symptoms are encouraged to report it to the DNR.

According to Amy Kearns, assistant ornithologist at DNR’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, the disease has been confirmed in 72 counties in Indiana to date. “The Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab (ADDL) was unable to diagnose the disease, but was able to rule out numerous known pathogens as the cause of disease. We are continuing to work with the avian disease experts at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center to try to determine the cause of the outbreak.”

DNR reports that afflicted birds have tested negative for avian influenza, West Nile virus, and other flaviviruses, Salmonella and Chlamydia (bacterial pathogens), Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses, herpesviruses and poxviruses, and Trichomonas parasites.

Since May, DNR has received 3,400 reports of sick or dead birds. Of these reports, DNR biologists confirmed more than 500 possible cases of the still-unidentified disease that is affecting several common songbird species, including American robin, blue jay, brown-headed cowbird, common grackle, European starling, various species of sparrows and finches, and northern cardinal.

Residents of the affected counties are asked not to put out feeding stations because the virus is known to spread when birds gather in close proximity at feeding stations. During summer months, birds have ample sources of food in nature and do not rely on backyard feeders.