SAMUEL: State DNR: Viruses at feeders now killing birds


Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we hear about viruses all the time.

 We wash our hands more, we clean things more, and we’ve learned that viruses are deadly and present everywhere. The same is true for birds.

The pandemic has kept us in our homes more than ever, and that has caused more people to feed birds.

They can bird watch from the kitchen window, and it’s fun.

The other day, I found something from the DNR that caught my eye. They are advising everyone with a bird feeder “be discontinued until further notice in WV.” The reason? You guessed it … viruses.

Viruses killing birds at feeders is nothing new. In March, there was an outbreak of Salmonellosis among songbirds that caused some states to ask residents to take down their feeders. It is not known how many birds died from this outbreak, but it was in the thousands.

Salmonella is a bacteria, so apparently the DNR has eliminated that as the problem.

I’m not sure why they believe a virus is the cause of birds dying, but that is apparently what is happening.

 Symptoms listed include swollen eyes with a crusty discharge, blood from mouth, and overall weakness.

 These are the same symptoms you get with salmonella so again I’m not sure why the biologists think this is a virus outbreak, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon.

The DNR suggests that you clean all feeders and bird baths with a 10 Percent bleach solution.

Bleach kills COVID-19,  so it should kill this bird virus. If you find a dead bird, wear rubber gloves to get rid of it. Also, keep your pets away from dead birds you find.

This outbreak should trigger those who feed birds to be diligent in keeping things clean.

Clean your feeders every two-three weeks. Keep the feed used dry.

Don’t feed on the ground. Just because you don’t find dead birds on the ground doesn’t mean they aren’t dying. Weak birds may go off and starve.

As I learn more, I’ll post it here. In the meantime, stop feeding. Hummingbird feeders are not affected, but other feeders are.

Dr. Samuel is a retired wildlife professor from West Virginia University. His outdoor columns have appeared, and continue to appear, in Bowhunter magazine and the Whitetail Journal. If you have questions or comments on wildlife and conservation issues, email him at