Wildlife groups investigating mysterious bird deaths in D.C. region

It was just a few months ago that the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the National Park Service (NPS) teamed up for a bird survey to investigate mysterious death rates of some species of birds in the National Capital Region. Since that time, the CBD has been working with the NPS and other partners in trying to find out what’s behind the deaths.

On July 9, 2016, a large number of bald eagles were found dead in a mass grave in Prince George’s County, Maryland. This discovery was made by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and it was also reported by news outlets such as the Washington Post and the Washington Times.

This condition seems to affect only young blue jays (see above) and rooks and no other species or animals.

RESTON, VA. – People should stop feeding birds until scientists understand why hundreds of birds in the Washington, D.C., area have gone blind and died since late May, a federal agency said.

Wildlife managers in Washington, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia have received increasing reports of sick and dying birds in recent weeks, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement on behalf of conservation groups in the region.

According to the agency, the birds showed swelling of the eyes and cortical discharge, as well as neurological signs. Some were shaking, tilting their heads or struggling to keep their balance, the Washington Post reported. The final cause of death has not yet been determined.

Birds can transmit diseases to each other when they congregate at feeding and swimming areas. Environmental agencies recommend basic precautions, including avoiding handling birds but wearing disposable gloves when necessary, keeping pets away from birds, and cleaning feeders with bleach.

Megan Kirchgessner, a veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, told the Post that at least 325 reports of sick birds have been collected. She said the disease only seems to affect young blue jays and rooks, not other species or animals.

This is an important phenomenon because it appears to be fairly widespread and stretches over a fairly long period of time, Kirchgessner said. And it goes on.

Laboratories from the Geological Survey, the University of Georgia and the University of Pennsylvania are working with authorities in the area to determine the cause of the birds’ deaths, officials said.

Allowing birds to find their own food can prevent the spread of disease, Kirchgessner said.

From a veterinary standpoint, especially in the spring when food is plentiful, there is no reason why feeders shouldn’t work, she says. And to be perfectly honest, especially in a situation like this, they can do more harm than good.