Central Kentucky birders look out for sick and dead birds after reports of mystery illness

Posted at 10:03 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 19:33:52-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Central Kentucky birders are looking out for sick or dead birds after the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife reported a mystery illness in at least three counties.

The illness has been reported in Kenton, Boone, and Jefferson Counties and the symptoms include eye swelling and crusty discharge, and neurological signs, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife.

So far the species affected have been blue jays, common grackles and European starlings.

In the three counties where deaths have been reported, Kentuckians have been asked to remove feeders. In other areas of the commonwealth, the Department of Fish & Wildlife has asked people to regularly clean birdfeeders and birdbaths with a 10% bleach solution.

All Kentuckians have been asked to report sightings of sick or dead birds through an online portal.

"This one is kind of, it's coming on pretty quick," said Ronan O'Carra, a committee member with the Central Kentucky Audubon Society. "It's knocking off big groups of birds."

O'Carra has fielded many questions about the illness through the group's Facebook page, and while he's heard speculation the cause may be linked to cicadas or pesticides, it won't be clear until the Department of Fish & Wildlife receives the results of tests sent to the University of Georgia.

"It's important that we fight the disease and hope that it doesn't spread," he said.

While the illness hasn't yet been reported in central Kentucky, O'Carra said he's been keeping an eye out for signs and symptoms and he's asked others to do the same.

"All the birds around here, we want to keep them as healthy as possible so nothing can come to us in general as well," he said.