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Numerous reports of dead birds across Ohio due to 'mysterious' illness

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife has received several calls about dead birds being found over Ohio and nearby states.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife has received multiple calls of dead birds across central Ohio.

"We've been getting these reports for the past couple weeks," said Gary Comer, District Wildlife Supervisor District 1, ODNR Division of Wildlife.

"There are neurological signs of their necks bending and flopping over to the side and also a lack of clearness or discharge from the eyes from conjunctivitis."

Comer said while these symptoms alone aren't uncommon but the fact that these birds are exhibiting a combination of the two symptoms is something rare.

"We’re assuming that it’s probably viral but we don’t know that for a fact."

Right now there is no treatment available for these sick birds.  

The National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, has received specimens from ODNR Division of Wildlife in hopes of finding an answer to what is causing this sudden death in these birds.

There are no current reports of any other type of animal or species exhibiting these symptoms or illness.  

Comer said that the most common birds that have been reported with this disease are Crows, Blue Jays, Grackles, European Starlings and a couple of reports of Mourning Doves.

Despite the coincidence with the Brood X cicada emergence and the reports of dying birds, Comer says that it is very unlikely that the cicadas are causing the birds to get sick.

He did, however, mention that if you were to spray a pesticide on the cicadas then the birds could possibly get sick but it's unlikely to be pesticide-related due to the nature of the cases called in from many other locations. 

Comer said the largest report he saw was 6-12 dead birds in one particular location. 

The public is encouraged to call 1-800-WILDLIFE to report any of these sick and dying birds. Knowing the species of the bird and the timeline of the bird's illness or death is also useful information to submit. 

Comer recommends keeping your kids and pets away from these sick birds and that if you do need to remove them that you are wearing gloves and are properly disposed of.

The West Nile virus does exhibit some of the same neurological symptoms in birds but this particular virus combines both the neurological symptoms and conjunctivitis.  

Conjunctivitis can also be transferred from bird to bird and Comer recommends the public in taking down their bird feeders and giving them a break for a while.

"It certainly wouldn’t hurt to take your feeders down right now and clean them up and give them a break. That could potentially slow down the spread or limit the spread from bird to bird contact."

These dead bird reports are also coming in from Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

For more information or questions, please contact the ODNR Division of Wildlife.