Sick and dying birds

This bird was found in the Washington, D.C. metro region with swollen eyes and crusty discharge.

Hoping to prevent the spread of a deadly illness affecting wild birds in Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states, New Hampshire wildlife officials are advising residents not to feed birds until the threat subsides.

Fish and Game says there’s no sign the illness has arrived here, but they’re not taking chances. Birds congregating at bird feeders and bird baths can transmit diseases to one another.

The first reports of sick and dying birds came in late May from wildlife agencies in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Washington, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center.

Symptoms include crusting, swelling and discharge of the eyes; and neurologic symptoms such as head tilt, rapid eye movement, impaired vision, lack of coordination and an inability to fly.

Additional reports have since come from Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, according to the NWHC website.

The majority of birds affected to date include fledgling common grackles, blue jays, European starlings and American robins, but other species of songbirds have also been affected, according to Fish and Game.

No cause for the illness has been determined, the NWHC said.

State wildlife agencies are working with federal agencies, diagnostic labs and other partners to track reports of the disease and bird mortality.

In New Hampshire, Fish and Game is collaborating with the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to track reports of this emerging disease and conduct diagnostic testing.

Anyone who observes sick or dead birds that appear to have symptoms of this illness is asked to report such incidents to Fish and Game’s wildlife division at 271-2461 or by email at wildlife@wildlife.nh.gov.

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