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Ky. Fish and Wildlife Officials: Stop feeding birds in six counties after 'unexplained illness'

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Posted at 11:50 AM, Jul 28, 2021

(LEX 18) — Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials say people living in six Kentucky counties should stop feeding birds as they investigate an "unexplained illness" that is impacting birds.

Wildlife officials say people living in Boone, Bullitt, Campbell, Jefferson, Kenton, and Madison should stop feeding birds and follow other statewide guidance.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources say they have received more than 2,000 reports of sick or dying birds to its online reporting system since the portal went live last month. About 265 of those reports are related to the "unexplained illness." Other reported bird deaths either died from normal causes or contained limited information and were inconclusive.

A definitive cause for this bird illness hasn't been identified at this point.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife continues to recommend the public follow these guidelines:

In Boone, Bullitt, Campbell, Jefferson, Kenton, and Madison counties:

  • Cease feeding birds until further notice (when this issue has been resolved);

Statewide:

  • Clean feeders and birdbaths weekly with a 10-percent 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 sick or dying birds are observed at any feeders or birdbaths, the department recommends taking them down for two weeks and cleaning them in a 10-percent bleach solution.

Wildlife and natural resource agencies in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, along with federal agencies, are working with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the cause.

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.

"There are likely multiple factors contributing to this mortality event," said Dr. Christine Casey, a wildlife veterinarian with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "The new problem appears to be complex and labs are working on understanding the possible role of bacteria and toxicology in the affected birds."

People who observe sick house finches or goldfinches at their feeders should take down their feeders and follow the cleaning protocols.

If you encounter sick or dead birds, please utilize the online reporting system provided by the department. Access the reporting system online or through the Unexplained Bird Illness webpage on the department's website at fw.ky.gov.

If you must remove dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag and dispose of the bag in a secured outdoor trash receptacle or bury them deeply in the ground.