Birds & Nature

8/13 update:

Before placing bird feeders back outside, please remove any remaining seed from the feeder. Thoroughly clean the feeder with soap and water, then soak in a 10% bleach solution for at least 10 minutes. Rinse and allow to dry. Then refill with seed and place outside. Clean the feeders once a week to help keep the feeder free of bacteria.​






7/28 update from the PA Game Commission:

The Wildlife Futures Program’s (WFP) web portal, hosting the Songbird Mortality Report Form, will remain open through at least August 15th. The number of new reports has waned over the past week.  Fewer than twenty percent of the 2,982 reports submitted from Pennsylvania through the web portal between July 1, 2021, through July 22, 2021, have been identified as being POTENTIALLY related to the songbird “mystery illness.” Poor condition of affected birds due to heat degradation, insect damage (maggots), and secondary predation has limited the number of usable specimens for analysis.

A total of 30 songbirds, representing submissions from all six Pennsylvania Game Commission regions, have been sent to the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System for full diagnostics. Tests for avian influenza, West Nile Virus, and Newcastle Disease Virus have all been negative. Other results are still pending. The WFP is partnering with other laboratories to accelerate the investigation and broaden the scope of diagnostic testing. To date, the cause of the songbird mortality event remains unknown.


​7/8 update from the PA Game Commission: To date, the songbird morbidity/mortality event appears to be targeting fledgling common grackles, blue jays, European starlings, and American robins. Affected songbirds are presenting with eye swelling and crusty discharge, along with neurological signs. While an exact cause has not been identified and diagnostics are ongoing, the following pathogens have been ruled out: Salmonella, Chlamydia, avian influenza virus, West Nile virus, Newcastle disease virus, herpesviruses, poxviruses, and Trichomonas parasites. There are no new developments on the diagnostics side, with multiple test results still pending at New Bolton Center and Penn State’s Animal Diagnostic Laboratory.

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Dear Audubon friends,

We’ve received a number of inquiries about the disease that’s causing neurological problems, conjunctivitis, and death in songbirds in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Indiana, Ohio, and Florida. Thankfully, so far, no cases have been reported in our area of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Out of an abundance of caution and in agreement with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, we advise people to remove their bird feeders (including hummingbird feeders) until we learn more about the cause of the problem.

Because the origin of the illness has not been identified, it’s important to remove situations where birds congregate in order to reduce chance of disease spread. As we learn more about the cause, we will provide updates on next steps and when you may place your feeders back outside.

At this time, we’ve stopped selling bird seed and feeders in Audubon Nature Stores. Our goal is to help lessen the spread of the disease—every little bit helps!

Please note: when we’re able to put feeders back out, it’s vitally important to keep them clean. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Clean feeders at least weekly to help to keep birds​healthy. Feeders may be disinfected with a bleach solution (1/2 cup of bleach per gallon of water). 
  • First, clean your feeder with soap and water. 
  • Then soak the feeder in the bleach solution for 15-20 minutes. 
  • Completely rinse and dry the feeder before refilling it.

We will post updates on our website, aswp.org, and on social media.


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