Residents told to stop filling feeders to avert bird illness

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut bird-lovers are being asked to stop filling their feeders to help prevent an affliction that’s killing songbirds in the southern and mid-Atlantic states from spreading to this state.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on Thursday asked residents to cease feeding birds and providing water in bird baths — places where birds congregate — until the “mortality event” has ceased. People are also being asked to clean their feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution to help prevent birds from possibly being infected.

The Connecticut Audubon Society made a similar request earlier this week. So far, there have been no reports of birds in Connecticut suffering from the ailment.

“Whatever is killing birds might be infectious, so we recommend that you stop feeding birds for the time being,” the Audubon Society said in an email. “The birds won’t suffer if you take your feeders down — there’s plenty of wild food available at this time of year. And you can put them back up either when it’s clear that the problem won’t show up here or when it’s over.”

Numerous young songbirds have been found in the mid-Atlantic, the Southeast and the eastern upper Midwest with ocular and neurologic issues since mid-May, according to DEEP. In some cases, large numbers of the birds have been found dead, including 16 in one location.

The reported symptoms include eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as numerous neurological signs such as head tremors, weakened leg muscles, falling to the side or the inability to stand, and excessive vocalizations. DEEP said the majority of birds reported to have the affliction have been fledgling common grackles, blue jays, European starlings and American robins. Other species of songbirds have also been reported.

DEEP is urging residents to avoid handling dead or injured wild birds and to wear gloves if it becomes necessary. People should keep their pets away from sick or dead birds. Meanwhile, dead birds should be placed in a sealable plastic bag and discarded with household trash to help prevent transmission to other birds and wildlife.

Residents are asked to report any dead birds to Connecticut’s Wild Bird Mortality Database.

Similar steps have been taken in other states. This month, Indiana officials asked people to take down feeders after counting 285 ill or dead birds since May.