Wildlife officials are on high alert. Blind birds have been dropping from the skies and dying in the nation’s capital. All across the Washington D.C. area including Virginia and Maryland, residents have been finding sick, blind and “dying birds in their yards, along streets, and in parks.” The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is “concerned.” Nobody knows what’s causing it but the likely suspects are “bacterial, viral or exposure to toxins.” If birds are exposed to it, so are the politicians. And they thought the Asian Andromeda Strain was bad.
Experts on high alert
According to Chelsea Jones with the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, the “symptoms we’re seeing that we are concerned about are unusual eyes in birds, so very swollen eyes, gunky eyes, eyes that can’t open, and then what look like neurological symptoms.” They act drunk.
“The birds are a little stumbly, wobbly, and unable to fly.” The alert reports started coming in last month. “Juvenile grackles and blue jays found to be blind, dying, or dead in the Arlington area.” They still don’t know why.
The experts don’t have any solid leads as to the cause of the fatal symptoms. “Wildlife experts don’t know if the problem is bacterial, viral or exposure to toxins.” As Ms. Jones explains, “You can tell the birds are suffering.
It’s really sad, especially for our animal control officers who are dealing with this issue directly. It’s been really hard for them to see this many sick animals. We’re really hoping we can get this figured out soon.” The alert public has been calling in more and more reports across the region.
Another reason for wildlife officials to sound the alert now is because, they “are starting to see it spreading to other species like crows, starlings, and a couple other types of birds.” Except for the eye issues the birds appear otherwise healthy. “Eye issues were reported in what otherwise looked like healthy juvenile birds, causing blindness and the birds to land and stay on the ground.”
Another spokesperson for the AWLA notes, “Animal Control is now seeing additional species of birds affected. Other agencies and localities across the region and state are reporting similar issues at this time.”
Working with biologist
As reported locally, the “Arlington Animal Control team is working with the regional biologist with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to test birds that are found dead.”
They also want to alert the public not to approach or touch affected birds. “If there are dead birds in your yard and they need to be picked up, please wear gloves, keep your pets away, put those dead birds in a ziplock bag, seal it up, and just put it in your trash with your regular household trash.”
One team of local reporters interviewed the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ state wildlife veterinarian. They want local residents to help out by “asking people to temporarily take down bird feeders and bird baths, because birds congregating at those spots could possibly transmit disease to one another.” Even birds need to be social distanced now.
“We are asking people in affected areas to pull in their bird feeders and baths, and wash them with a 10 percent bleach solution,” said Megan Kirchgessner. “If it’s an infectious agent, that will kill it if it’s harbored on the feeders or bird baths.” She has already poured through “over 300” alert reports of sick or dead birds to figure out the cause.
“We are investigating a variety of potential causes. We’re looking at toxins, we’re looking at viruses, bacteria, funguses, you name it. We’ve got tests pending.” Nancy Pelosi wants to know if it’s something that can be prevented by ingesting alcohol. “Now we’re just waiting to get those results back from the lab.”
One likely suspect is the spray that local pesticide companies are pumping out by the drum to kill cicadas. The AWLA agrees it’s not a good thing at all to be doing. They want to alert the public that spraying is bad for most wildlife, including “dogs, cats, birds, and bats” that eat the cicadas. “That is a question we’ve been getting a lot,” Ms. Jones mentioned. “Because obviously we’re seeing this odd illness and then we’ve got all these cicadas.
So there’s always a chance they could be related. The state is doing some testing in relation to cicadas, we just don’t have an answer yet.” There are a whole bunch of agencies looking into it, from the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. At least eight agencies and labs are listed.