Probe launched into mysterious reports of sick or dying Pa. songbirds; includes York County

Reports about 12 species of sick or dying songbirds, including the American robin, shown above, have been reported.

Reports from the public about sick or dying songbirds have recently been received from 27 Pennsylvania counties, including York.

That’s according to a news release from the Pennsylvania Game Commission on Thursday.

The health condition causing the deaths is uncertain, but the reports have caused concern within the outdoors community.

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As a result, wildlife health experts from the Wildlife Futures Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine and officials from the Game Commission are investigating the reports.

The Game Commission said the reports from the public chronicle both adult and young birds exhibiting signs of the condition. The most common clinical symptoms include discharge and/or crusting around the eyes, eye lesions and/or neurologic signs, such as falling over or head tremors.

Affected birds are being tested for several toxins, parasites, bacterial diseases and viral infections. To date, test results have been inconclusive.

Condition has appeared in 12 species: Twelve species have been reported: blue jay, European starling, common grackle, American robin, northern cardinal, house finch, house sparrow, eastern bluebird, red-bellied woodpecker, Carolina chickadee and Carolina wren.

Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties have had a combined 15 reports.

Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, Schuylkill and York counties have had a combined 19 reports.

Numerous reports have also been received across the United States, including the mid-Atlantic region, extending into the Southeast and eastern upper Midwest. Affected birds were first reported in and around Washington, D.C.

The public is encouraged to report any sightings of birds that have died and/or birds that have been seen with swollen and crusty eyes, as well as neurological signs such as stumbling and head tremors. Report the incident online at: http://www.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers-laboratories/research-initiatives/wildlife-futures-program.

Precautionary measures: Experts are also encouraging the public to follow these five precautionary measures until more is known:

►Cease feeding birds and providing water in bird baths until this wildlife mortality event has concluded to prevent potential spread between birds and to other wildlife.

►Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution.

►Avoid handling dead or injured wild birds. Wear disposable gloves if it’s necessary to handle a bird.

►Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a standard precaution.

►To dispose of dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag and discard with household trash. This will prevent disease transmission to other birds and wildlife.