UPDATE 8/20/21

Ban on Feeding Birds Lifted!

Yesterday, the Department of Wildlife Resources in the State of Virginia gave the OK to resume feeding birds in all affected areas.

Included in their statement was the following: "As of mid-August, reports of sick and dead birds have declined in many jurisdictions, and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is lifting its previous recommendation to cease feeding birds in affected areas."

To view the full official statement from the Virginia DWR click here.

Please continue to follow the recommendation for Responsible Bird Feeding. We will continue to post updates as they become available although it could be weeks or months if and when a final cause is determined for this mortality event.

UPDATE 7/28/21

Cornell Experts Not Overly Alarmed by Mysterious Songbird Sickness

Dear Friends,

We know that you love your backyard birds and that you've been anxious for an update regarding the mysterious bird illness reported across several states this spring and summer. We're happy to report some very encouraging news from Cornell University experts quoted in a recent article titled "Cornell Experts Not Overly Alarmed by Mysterious Songbird Sickness."

The article quotes Elizabeth Bunting, Senior Extension Associate at the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab as saying, "Over the course of weeks, no one was finding anything infectious. They did a lot of testing but could not come up with any disease process, and the rehabilitators were telling us they were trying antibiotics and things like that, but they did not have great effectiveness.”

Now for the encouraging news! According to Bunting, "Information coming out of the National Wildlife Health Center and some of the other states said that the cases were declining all of a sudden. That would not be typical of an infectious disease outbreak. You wouldn't expect an infectious disease to just spontaneously go away. The distribution of states where this spontaneously popped up was an exact match for the cicada emergence map, and it is a very strange distribution of states for this kind of outbreak."

Researchers will continue to monitor and study the situation, but the article says, "Bunton [sic] expressed that the outbreak should not be a cause of alarm. The diminishing outbreak does not pose any safety threats to humans, nor does it threaten the stability of the various songbird species."

The health and well-being of birds is our number one priority! The key to keeping birds safe is to ALWAYS keep bird feeders and bird baths clean and to follow recommendations for Responsible Bird Feeding.

We believe that a caring, observant public, which our WBU customers most definitely are, actually helps provide valuable information in the effort to help #SaveTheSongBirds in these situations.

We will continue share updates as they become available. Thank you for your many expressions of concern for Wild Birds Unlimited and for all you do to care for the birds in your backyard.

We encourage you to share this information with anyone who finds joy in feeding and watching our feathered friends.


UPDATE 7/28/21

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (Virginia DWR) has issued an update. The number of birds being reported has decreased significantly over the last month. This is definitely good news! No cause has been determined yet but as mentioned below, they are continuing to explore all avenues including toxicology. Here is the latest directly from the Virginia DWR statement (click on the link at the bottom to see the entire report):

Since early June, reports of dead or sick birds from the affected areas submitted via DWR’s online form have decreased by 50%. Reports of dead or sick birds submitted to the Animal Rescue League of Arlington (ARLA) have also dropped from an average of 17 reports per day in early June to 1.5 reports per day in July. In the last two weeks, cooperating wildlife rehabilitation veterinarians in the affected area and ARLA staff have only reported a total of two observations of affected birds.

DWR is working with the various wildlife health labs involved in this investigation, as well as the other states involved in this mortality event. Diagnostic investigations of this nature can be prolonged, due to the wide range of testing possibilities, and because of this no definitive cause(s) of illness or death have been determined at this time. Experts are utilizing all possible diagnostic avenues including toxicology (herbicides, pesticides, etc.), viral, bacterial, and parasitology.

DWR continues to recommend that people discontinue bird feeding in the affected areas until further notice. For the remainder of the state, DWR advises removing bird feeders any time multiple dead birds are observed on a property over a short period of time. Feeders and bird baths should be disinfected with a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach mixed with nine parts water), rinsed with water, and allowed to air dry. Generally, for the health of wild birds, it is a good practice to disinfect bird feeders and baths at least every two weeks.
If you encounter sick or dead birds, in Virginia, please submit an event report at: http://dwr.virginia.gov/.../bird-mortality-reporting-form/
For additional information on this mortality event, please visit here.


UPDATE 7/13/21

There has been no official update since our last post. However, we have had very few reports to our store of birds having neurological issues and crusty eyes in our area in the last week or two. We are hearing through several sources that the number of birds being reported to other agencies in our areas has also greatly reduced. This is good news. We will continue to post any new/updated information here on our website.

At Wild Birds Unlimited we want to be part of the solution. The health and well-being of birds is our number one priority! As with past bird diseases or infections, we believe that a caring, observant public, which our WBU customers most definitely are, actually helps provide valuable information in the effort to help save the song birds in these situations.

The key is to ALWAYS be a responsible bird bird-feeding hobbyist. Keep your bird feeders and bird baths clean! Please refer to our recommendations for Responsible Bird Feeding here.


UPDATE  7/3/21

The USGS has issued an update stating again that no definitive cause has yet been determined. Other states (Kentucky, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio) have had reports of the illness but no numbers were given. They have ruled out several known pathogens including "Salmonella and Chlamydia (bacterial pathogens); avian influenza virus; West Nile virus and other flaviviruses; Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses; herpesviruses and poxviruses; and Trichomonas parasites. Transmission electron microscopy and additional diagnostic tests, including microbiology, virology, parasitology and toxicology, are ongoing."

Unfortunately, the update did not share important information we would like to know such as:

How many birds overall have been affected?

How many birds in each local community, county, and state have been affected?

Have the numbers decreased or increased since the initial findings?

We have heard of very few reports of the illness in our area and therefore can only speculate that the event has started to subside. If you do see any sign of sick birds in your yards, cease bird feeding for a couple of weeks, clean and sanitize all feeders with a bleach solution (10:1 water to bleach), rinse and let dry.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update our website as needed. It is certainly our hope that the numbers decline and that a cause is determined.


Unknown Bird Illness - Special Statement 6/17/21

Dear Friends,

As you might have heard in the news, there have recently been several cases of reported bird deaths as a result of a mysterious disease, virus, parasite, poison/pesticide, environmental factor or other unknown cause. Wildlife officials are unsure of the cause that is affecting birds in this multi-state area (parts of Northern Virginia, DC, Maryland, West Virginia) and are actively looking for answers. It is not known if it is contagious or caused by something environmental.

What we know so far:

The birds reported have mostly been Blue Jays, European Starlings, American Robins and Common Grackles and are most often fledglings.
Symptoms include swollen, crusty eyes and balance/neurological issues.
Lab results have not been conclusive yet.
Report any birds exhibiting these symptoms to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources at: https://dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/bird-mortality-reporting-form/
Because there are several unknowns, state officials have recommended that bird feeders and bird baths be taken down until the cause has been determined. This is to reduce the number of birds congregating in one area, just in case there is something causing the illness that could be contagious.

We are hoping that the authorities will take other steps to ensure the safety of the birds while the cause is being determined. Reducing or eliminating wide-spread pesticide use is one suggestion in particular that we think is vitally important.

There is speculation that this illness might be related to the Brood X cicada emergence in some way. The timing and geographical location of these occurrences makes this an interesting idea but nothing has been concluded yet and this is just speculation.

The key ALWAYS is to be a responsible bird feeding hobbyist. Keep your bird feeders and bird baths clean! Please refer to our recommendations here. For the time being, consider using hummingbird feeders, finch feeders or suet feeders (the birds that use these feeders have not been affected) and enjoy walks or visits to local parks where you can enjoy birds in their natural setting.

The health and well-being of our birds is our number one priority! We know that under normal circumstances, feeding the birds can have a tremendously positive effect on them when done responsibly. Feel free to stop by our store or call us with any questions. We appreciate your support as always! #savethesongbirds

- Sherri and Charles Bartlett, owners