Peoria Park District warns to clean bird feeders and baths amidst mysterious bird disease

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Greenfinches and Goldfinches on and around a bird feeder. (Getty Images)

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A mysterious disease has killed birds across the country, and health officials do not know what it is yet.

States spanning the East Coast and moving West have seen cases of the disease, some even calling for residents to take down bird feeders and baths.

As it inches closer to Illinois with cases that have been found in Indiana, naturalists and health officials said it is worth monitoring to ensure it does not spread to our area.

So far, officials said the disease has affected blue jays and finches, both of which are songbirds.

Naturalist Susie Grana Ingram with the Peoria Park District said the disease is a complete mystery. She said officials have ruled out the most common bird diseases.

She explained there are two known ways the disease manifests itself. If the bird has crusty eyes or starts behaving strangely — walking in circles or not flying away when humans or other animals approach — that bird is probably sick.

Ingram said in states where the disease is spreading, health officials are calling for measures to essentially social distance birds.

Here in Illinois, she said the recommendation is to wash birdbaths and bird feeders on a weekly basis with a 10 percent bleach solution.

“Birds are experiencing a lot of different threats, right, from climate changes to widespread pesticide use to habitat loss and degradation,” Ingram said. “So this is something that, in the face of all that, might not be as huge of a deal, but it is something that we’re taking seriously as biologists and that we want to keep an eye on.”

She said those who see a dead bird or a bird showing the symptoms listed above should report it to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

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