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Indiana Researchers Working To Determine Cause Of Mysterious Illness In Songbirds

Wikimedia Commons/Saforrest

UPDATE: June 25, 4:35 p.m.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is recommending that people take down their bird feeders across the state, not just in counties where sickened birds have been reported.

The DNR news release said it has now received reports of sick birds in 15 counties: Clark, Delaware, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, LaGrange, Lake, Marion, Monroe, Newton, St. Joseph, Union, Washington and Whitley.

Updated story:

In 15 counties across Indiana, scientists and health experts are searching to find why more than 30 songbirds have been afflicted with a mysterious condition.

Indiana Audubon Executive Director Brad Bumgardner said preliminary testing has ruled out the West Nile virus and avian flu.

“We have something that that we are testing for that we do not know what it is, [that’s] kind of more of the concern right now, because we don't know whether this has been spread contagiously," he said. "And then, you know, what the extent or widespread-ness [sic] of this is going to be as it develops.”

Bumgardner says it’s mainly affecting birds in the crow family, known as corvids. Symptoms include crusty or swollen eyes, blindness, limited coordination and unusual behavior.

All Indiana residents are advised to take down bird feeders to discourage birds from gathering and possibly spreading the infection.

“It's kind of the equivalent of, last year, us shutting down all the buffets," Bumgardner said. "Keep us from gathering together, [because] we're going to spread it. It’s the same thing at a bird feeder.”

If you see a sick or injured bird, he says, keep kids and pets away and call a local wildlife control operator. The Department of Natural Resources has a county-by-county list of contact information for local operators.

You should also report the sighting using the DNR’s Sick or Dead Wildlife Reporting form on their website.

Bumgardner said there’s no evidence that the illness is transmittable to humans.