Area wildlife experts look for what’s causing surge of sick, dying birds

It still appears to be a mystery why so many birds are turning up sick or dead across D.C. and at least three states.

Despite numerous calls to wildlife departments about an uptick in sick and dying birds across the District, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia, wildlife workers still have to figure out what’s happening.

In a statement last week, Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources said there is “no definitive cause of death” identified at this time.

Wildlife managers started receiving reports late last month about unhealthy or dead birds showing signs of eye swelling, crusty eye discharge and neurological issues.

The National Park Service — as well as wildlife departments in those jurisdictions — “are continuing to work with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the cause of mortality,” said the statement from Virginia’s DWR.

Last month, WTOP spoke with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who sits on D.C.’s “City Wildlife” board. Paula Goldberg believes the crusty eye conditions are similar to a disease that is usually picked up from dirty birdfeeders but could not figure out the cause of the neurological symptoms.

While the cause is determined, wildlife managers are trying to stop the spread of disease among birds, especially at man-made birdfeeders and bird baths.

Virginia’s DWR advises people to stop feeding birds “until this wildlife mortality event has concluded” and to clean feeders and baths with a 10% beach solution.

If people see any unhealthy or dead birds, DWR recommends reporting the cases and not to touch them.

If it’s necessary, people are told to wear disposable gloves and place any dead birds in sealable plastic bags that can be tossed out with your regular garbage.

Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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