UPDATED Interagency Statement: USGS and Partners Continue Investigating DC Area Bird Mortality Event

Release Date:

If you are a private individual or entity with a wildlife morbidity and/or mortality event to report, please contact your state department of natural resources or state agency of game and fish.

Bird with Swollen Eyes and Discharge

This bird was found in the Washington, D.C. metro region with swollen eyes and crusty discharge, a sign observed on most birds affected by a May/June 2021 mortality event in the area. (Credit: Leslie Frattaroli, NPS)

Updated on July 2

In late May, wildlife managers in Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky began receiving reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs. More recently, additional reports have been received from Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. While the majority of affected birds are reported to be fledgling common grackles, blue jays, European starlings and American robins, other species of songbirds have been reported as well. No definitive cause(s) of illness or death have been determined at this time. No human health or domestic livestock and poultry issues have been reported.

The natural resource management agencies in the affected states and the District of Columbia, along with the National Park Service, are continuing to work with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the cause(s) of this event. Those laboratories include the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program and the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

The following pathogens have not been detected in any birds tested, based on results received to date: Salmonella and Chlamydia (bacterial pathogens); avian influenza virus; West Nile virus and other flaviviruses; Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses; herpesviruses and poxviruses; and Trichomonas parasites. Transmission electron microscopy and additional diagnostic tests, including microbiology, virology, parasitology and toxicology, are ongoing.

Birds congregating at bird feeders and bird baths can transmit diseases to one another. Therefore, the state and District agencies recommend the following standard precautions:

  • Cease feeding birds until this wildlife morbidity/mortality event subsides;
  • Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach mixed with nine parts water), rinse with water and allow to air dry;
  • Avoid handling birds unless necessary. If you do handle them wear disposable gloves. If picking up a dead bird, place an inverted plastic bag over your hand to avoid direct contact with the bird; and
  • Keep pets (including pet birds) away from sick or dead wild birds as a standard precaution.

If you encounter sick or dead birds, please contact your state or District wildlife conservation agency for further instructions and to help them track this event. To dispose of dead birds, place in a plastic bag, seal and discard with household trash or bury them deeply. Additional information will be shared as diagnostic results are received.