Following up on our post last week about the unknown illness affecting songbirds, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PAGC) has released more information on cases in Pennsylvania. The full news release can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/3rax5s36
We’ve had several questions about this outbreak, and hope we can help clarify a few points for our bird-loving friends:
Where is this happening? To date, reports of ill birds have come from 27 counties, including Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery and Chester. While not all reports of ill or deceased birds may be related to the same unknown illness, we advise the public to follow all recommendations and report suspected ill birds using the following link: http://www.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers-laboratories/research-initiatives/wildlife-futures-program
Do I have to stop feeding birds? The Wildlife Clinic and the PAGC are recommending that the public remove all seed feeders and bird baths, clean them with a 10% bleach solution, and not put them back out until further notice. At this time, hummingbirds do not appear to be affected, and nectar feeders can still be used. As always, ensure they are thoroughly cleaned and refilled with fresh sugar water daily to prevent bacterial growth.
Can I remove my feeders but still put out seed on the ground or on my deck? We recommend not feeding birds at all, including scattering seed on the ground or other surfaces. Since we don’t know how this disease is transmitted, we don’t want to encourage birds to congregate in large groups where they may come into contact with sick individuals. Any food that is put out will encourage animals to gather and could increase the risk of spreading disease.
If we suddenly stop putting out seed, won’t the birds go hungry? What will parents feed their babies? Birds will not struggle or starve if feeders are removed, even in urban areas where natural food sources may appear scarce from our perspective- birds are experts at finding what they need! In the summer months, there is plenty of natural food available to sustain birds including insects, berries, and seeds from native plants. Most songbird species feed insects to their growing babies, as they are higher in protein and fat than seeds.
The best way to support baby birds is to reduce pesticide use and to encourage green spaces with native plants.