You may have heard by now that a mysterious illness is afflicting and killing common feeder birds along the Atlantic Coast, Northeast and Midwest of the United States. Birds typically show eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs (such as seizures or lack of coordination). The majority of affected birds are reported to be fledgling common grackles, blue jays, European starlings, and American robins, but other species of songbirds have been reported as well.
While scientists do not yet know what is causing it, we do know that birds congregating at bird feeders and bird baths can transmit diseases to one another.
The Wisconsin DNR has released their recommendations for feeders and bird baths that involve daily cleaning. However, in summer when there is a buffet of wild food sources available as a primary food source for birds, removing feeders is a good preventative practice. Out of abundance of caution for our birds, Madison Audubon is asking people to be more cautious and follow these recommendations (based on those of the National Wildlife Health Center):
Take down all bird feeders until this wildlife disease subsides. This includes all feeder types, including hummingbird, suet, and others. Once more is known about the illness, we will update our recommendations.
Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach mixed with nine parts water), rinse with water, and allow to air dry. Do not rehang feeders, even when empty.
Use your best discretion on whether to provide a bird bath. Summer weather is hot and birds need water, but baths are also a gathering location. If you keep your bird bath out, clean it daily with a 10% bleach solution, air dry, and refill with clean, fresh water.