a small blue bird perched on a tree branch

State says it’s now OK to use bird feeders and baths

Betsy PriceGovernment, Headlines

a small blue bird perched on a tree branch

Blue Jays are among the birds being affected by a mysterious illness.


The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control say the number of songbirds who were dying from a mystery illness has gone down enough that residents can go back to using bird baths and feeders.

The state on June 10 asked people to stop using the baths and feeders because no one was sure how songbirds were getting sick.

Delaware was one of 10 states and Washington, D.C., reporting sick birds. In Delaware, there were 150 reports.

Affected birds typically exhibit symptoms including eye swelling and squinting, crusty discharge around the eyes or neurologic symptoms such as erratic flight and stumbling, often followed by the death of the bird. Juvenile birds appear to be more affected than adults, with European starlings, blue jays, northern cardinals and American robins the most reported affected species.

While investigators said they still don’t know why that happened, none of the birds seemed infected by salmonella and chlamydia, avian influenza virus, West Nile and other flaviviruses, Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses, herpesviruses and poxviruses and Trichomonas parasites.

Whatever was happening did not spread to humans, domestic livestock or poultry, the state said.

Anyone who sees a sick bird should contact Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research at 302-737-9543. Additional information can be found on the organization’s website: www.tristatebird.org.

Anyone who sees a dead songbird that displayed any of the symptoms should report it to the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife at 302-735-3600.

Those refilling bird feeders and bird baths should:

  • Initially thoroughly clean bird feeders and baths with a 10% bleach solution and weekly thereafter
  • Remove bird feeders and baths if sick or dead birds are observed
  • Avoid handling wild birds, wearing disposable gloves if it is necessary to handle a bird
  • Keep pets away from sick and dead wild birds


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