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CT Bird Deaths Decrease; Cause of Illness Remains a Mystery

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Friday, August 27, 2021   

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Fewer wild birds are dying in Connecticut than earlier this summer, but experts are still trying to pinpoint the cause and are looking for help to identify problems.

Rates of Connecticut bird deaths have dropped by about 75%, so wildlife agencies are changing their previous guidance about not putting out bird feeders and birdbaths in yards.

Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society, said the unidentified illness has been seen in birds from the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and southern states. He added it is unknown if the disease is related to a toxin or environmental issue, and almost all infectious diseases have been ruled out.

"Discovering a new pathogen is obviously much more difficult," Comins explained. "So, there's really no positive or negative test on this, because we don't know what is causing it. And, it may be contagious between birds."

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) said residents can put out their bird feeders and birdbaths again, but must clean and disinfect them once a week. They should wear gloves if they need to touch a bird, or any item used by birds.

Comins hopes preventive measures will keep the condition from spreading among year-round local birds, and to others that stop by during their migration south for the winter. Regardless, he noted residents are advised to report any bird illness or fatality to DEEP, with visual documentation, if possible.

"If they find a dead bird, if they can take photos of it, that show particularly the face area," Comins requested. "Also, if the bird is alive and exhibiting neurological syndromes, video of that would be helpful as well."

He added other symptoms include swollen or crusty eyes. He said bird deaths or illnesses should be reported on the state DEEP online database, or by calling the DEEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011.


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