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

Indiana's official state bird, the cardinal, is among the songbirds affected by the illness. Photo provided by Joshua J. Cotten via Unsplash

A mysterious songbird illness is killing cardinals, robins, blue jays and other species across Indiana and in other states, prompting the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to recommend that Hoosiers stop putting out bird feed until further notice.

According to the DNR, sick or dead birds have been reported in more than 40 counties including Marion and surrounding metro Indianapolis counties.

Since late May, DNR has been receiving reports of sick and dying songbirds with neurological signs, eye swelling, and crusty discharge around the eyes.

“Several species are being affected,” said Allisyn-Marie Gillet, a DNR ornithologist, “including blue jay, American robin, common grackle, Northern cardinal, European starling, and a few others.”

The cause or transmission is currently unknown but as the investigation continues, DNR recommends all Hoosiers remove their birdfeeders, including those for hummingbirds, statewide and take the following steps to stop the spread of the disease:

  • Use the DNR sick/dead wildlife reporting tool  to alert DNR staff.
  • Stop feeding birds until the mortality event has concluded.
  • Clean feeders and baths with a 10% bleach solution.
  • Avoid handling birds if possible. When removing dead birds, wear disposable gloves and place birds and gloves in a sealable plastic bag to dispose with household trash.
  • Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a precaution.

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health is also recommending that residents who keep backyard ducks and chickens to take precautions to keep them from being exposed to infected songbirds.