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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Wisconsin Wildlife Managers Ask Public To Help Watch For Mysterious Songbird Illness

American robin zoe finney.jpeg
Zoe Finney
/
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
The American robin is among the songbirds that could be at risk in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is monitoring the mysterious deaths of songbirds.

In late May, wildlife managers in the eastern United States began getting reports of sick and dying birds. And, experts have not been able to identify what is causing the birds to become sick.

While there haven’t been any reports of the illness affecting birds in Wisconsin, the DNR is asking people to be on the lookout and report sick or dead birds showing particular symptoms.

The agency issued these suggestions:

"Anyone who observes sick or dead birds at their bird feeders or bird baths should remove their feeders. If you have not seen sick or dead birds at your feeders or baths, take care to clean and disinfect them regularly with soap and water, followed by a rinse in 10% bleach solution. It is always good practice to wear gloves while working with and around bird feeders. Pets should be kept away from the area below the feeders and away from any sick or dead birds."

Lindsay Obermeier, director of the raptor program at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, is among the many specialists throughout the country keeping a close watch on the situation.

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Susan Bence
Lindsay Obermeier directs Schlitz Audubon Nature Center's raptor program.

"I’m diligent about what’s happening in the wild. This mysterious illness started in the east. The epicenter is around Washington D.C. and it slowly started to spread through New England. It's as far west as Indiana and Ohio," Obermeier explains.

The impacted songbirds have suffered a combination of symptoms. "Swollen, crusty eyes and also neurological symptoms. They're fatigued and wobbly. They can't keep their balance," she says.

As specialists try to figure out what is causing the fatal illness, Obermeier says Schlitz Audubon is trying to do its part to help inform the public.

"I heard a great tip. People who have a feeder out and have a couple extras, rotate through their feeders. So they pull one in, put out a clean one and rotate." She adds, "We are aware of what a virus can do. It can spread when birds are in close proximity to one another. You want to remove a place for them to congregate."

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