By Ariane Komyati-Special to the North Star Reporter
According to MassWildlife, it is now considered safe for Massachusetts residents to put out their bird feeders and bird baths.
In July, MassWildlife and Mass Audubon asked Massachusetts residents to stop using bird feeders and bird baths for the time being to prevent birds from congregating due to a mysterious bird illness seen in parts of the country.
In a statement put out last week by MassWildlife, residents were thanked for keeping local birds safe, and were told that it is considered safe to put bird feeders and bird baths back outside. The mysterious illness has not been confirmed in Massachusetts, and reports of sick and dying birds have been decreasing in other states. There were a few reports of sick birds in the state, but nothing was confirmed.
Last May, wildlife professionals in Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky began receiving reports of sick/dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge. A majority of the birds affected were fledgling common grackles, blue jays, European starlings, and American robins, according to MassWildlife on the Mass.gov website. There is still no definitive cause of the illness.
“Researchers have ruled out all of the typical bird illnesses including avian influenza, West Nile Virus, and Newcastle Disease,” explained Marion Larson, the Chief of Information and Education for MassWildlife. “Furthermore, toxicology results have been negative for heavy metals and common pesticides and herbicides. Wildlife disease specialists found no evidence linking the disease to cicada brood emergence events.”
Despite the fact there is no indication that bird feeders and baths are contributing to the spread of this mysterious bird illness, MassWildlife says residents should still take precautions.
“Bird seed and suet are known to attract other animals like rodents, bears, and turkeys, which can cause conflicts between humans and wildlife,” stated Larson. “If you choose to resume feeding birds, MassWildlife advises taking certain bird health and safety precautions.”
These precautions include cleaning and sanitizing bird feeders and baths at least once a week, and if a sick bird is observed, take the feeders/baths down for at least two weeks. MassWildlife also encourages people to consider alternative ways to attract birds to their yards, such as planting native plants, shrubs, or trees; or building bird houses.
“State wildlife officials will continue to monitor the situation in Massachusetts and communicate with wildlife disease specialists on this illness,” said Larson.