DNR Lifts Advisory on Bird Feeders as Mystery Illness Declines

blue jay at bird feeder
Photo by Gerhard Crous via Unsplash

Indiana wildlife officials have given the clear for Hoosiers in all counties to resume using backyard bird feeders.

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, biologists identified more than 750 possible cases in 76 counties where birds presented clinical signs including crusty eyes, eye discharge, and neurological issues. The cause of the illness affecting songbirds this summer remains unsolved but incidents of the disease have significantly declined since early September.

The reduction in cases was helped, in part, by Hoosiers taking down bird feeders as a precautionary measure and submitting more than 4,300 reports to DNR that allowed staff to track the disease and its regional differences.

The illness was first identified in May in Indiana and several other states, leading to a call for residents to take in bird feeders in order to reduce the spread of the illness as birds congregate close together around feeders.

Before putting feeders back outside, DNR recommends:

  • Scrub feeders clean with soap and water.
  • Soak them in a 10% bleach solution and rinse well.
  • Repeat every two weeks.

DNR reports that the USGS National Wildlife Health Center’s avian disease experts and other scientists are continuing investigative work on the unidentified bird disease. Indiana DNR has provided samples to the laboratory to aid with its testing.

Residents are also asked to remain alert and continue reporting to the DNR if they discover any sick or dead birds with the telltale symptoms of crusty eyes, eye discharge, and/or neurological issues.