Mysterious Bird Deaths & Keeping Your Birds Safe

PA Game Commission has Lifted the Moratorium on Bird Feeding and Bird Baths.

We received an email from Dr. Sean Murphy, the State Ornithologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, sharing a Press Release from the Commission. The press release includes the following:

"With decreasing reports of sick and dead wild birds, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is lifting the recommendation to cease feeding birds. Much is still unknown about what caused the mortality event documented in Washington D.C. and at least 10 states, including Pennsylvania, since late May. No definitive cause of illness or death has been determined. But research has ruled out many potential causes and there is no indication that feeding birds or maintaining bird baths were contributing factors."

The press release also emphasized the importance of regularly cleaning your bird feeders and bird baths, and to watch for any signs of disease in your birds. Click here to read the entire press release.

How bad was this mysterious bird death event?

Thankfully, we got through this mysterious bird death event without significant impacts to bird populations. Less than 595 bird deaths in PA were reported to the Wildlife Futures Program that were POTENTIALLY related to this event (less than 0.009% of the estimated PA populations of the four species most affected --Common Grackle, European Starling, Blue Jay, and American Robin).

It's important to remember that many of our actions can have a far greater impact on bird populations. For example, outdoor cats and collisions with windows each kill over a billion birds annually in the United States. The single greatest harm done to most wildlife species is the destruction or degradation of the habitats that animals need to live, all of which is made much worse by climate change and the misuse of chemicals like pesticides.

Brood X (17 year) Cicada Emergence

Numerous news stories and a great deal of social media coverage were published earlier this summer about mysterious bird deaths. While the overall number of reported deaths was not overly alarming, they were cause for concern.  Multiple reliable sources now believe this bird event was related to the Brood X (17 year) cicada emergence and not a contagious process.

  • A Naturalist from the National Wildlife Federation posted a video explaining the impact of the cicadas.  Click HERE to see the NWF video.
  • A news article was recently published on Ithaca.com, a local news site for the home of Cornell University, where a Cornell expert provides more insight into the possible effects of the Brood X cicada emergence. Click HERE to access this article.

Birds Benefit from Feeders & Bird Baths

Our feeders and birdbaths provide many benefits to the birds in your backyard. Birds continue to struggle with habitat loss, reduced insects available due to the lack of native plants, and rely on your feeders and birdbaths to supplement their natural diet. You should clean your feeders and birdbaths frequently.

There are Many Reasons for Bird Deaths:

  • Window strikes
  • Car strikes
  • Predators (cats, hawks, etc.)
  • Consumption of insects and foods contaminated with herbicides or insecticides
  • Birds competing for nest boxes or territories
  • Natural causes

The key is to ALWAYS be a responsible bird feeding hobbyist. Keep your bird feeders and bird baths clean!

If you enjoy feeding and watching your backyard birds, then you probably want to do as much as you can to practice your hobby safely and ensure the birds’ overall health and well-being. While the incidence of birds falling ill from feeders is small compared to other natural hazards birds face, there are things you can do to help your birds stay healthy:

  • Provide multiple feeding stations in different areas of your yard to disperse bird activity.
  • Provide seed from a bird feeder rather than scattering it on the ground.
  • Keep areas clean under and around your feeders.
  • Keep fresh seed in the feeder and be sure it doesn't get moldy.
  • Clean your bird feeders regularly with a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water. 

The health and well-being of birds is our number one priority! We know that feeding the birds can have a tremendously positive effect on them when done responsibly. Thank you for your continued support and we are sure your birds appreciate everything you do for them.