ODNR investigating mystery illness killing birds in Ohio, other states

DAYTON — Wildlife experts say a mystery illness is killing birds across several states, including Ohio.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Management Supervisor Brett Beatty said when his department first got a call several weeks ago about a dead bird, along with news reports of dead birds in other states, they didn’t think much of it.

“Didn’t necessarily connect the two at first. Thought they were unrelated and then shortly after that we got more and more reports,” Beatty said.

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Reports of these dead birds are now coming in from several cities in Ohio from Cincinnati through the Dayton region, including Greene, Montgomery, Clark and Miami counties and Columbus.

There are also several reports coming from Kentucky, Washington, D.C. and other states.

Beatty said a majority of the reports involve backyard birds.

“It’s been mostly blue jays and grackles that have been the primary species, but we’ve had reports of other species as well,” Beatty said.

Right now, Beatty said ODNR is not sure why these birds are dying.

“You see a lot of head twisting, birds on the ground that are unstable. Unable to support themselves, conjunctivitis, swelling on the eyes and on the head. It’s something we haven’t seen before,” Beatty said.

ODNR has collected specimen from around the region and sent it to a lab to try and figure out what the mystery illness is. If you see a dead bird or two, Beatty said it may not be related.

He said, “You can just dispose of those. If it’s something recent in the past few days, and has multiple birds in a confined area, you know a few blocks or yards, and if it’s impacting multiple species, that is something we’d be interested in.”

Beatty said, right now, ODNR doesn’t believe these birds are harmful to pets or people. But, to keep pets away from them and wear gloves when disposing of them.

More testing will need to be done in order to determine why this is happening. If you would like to report dead birds, you can call 1-800-WILDLIFE.

Kayla Courvell

Kayla Courvell

I was born and raised in a small town just north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and decided as a child I was going to be a news reporter.