Wildlife experts have a mystery on their hands and they are turning to the public for help.
Backyard birds are dying and the cause remains unknown. The impacted birds show symptoms including neurological distress, lethargy as well as apparent blindness with eyes that are infected.
The mystery disease first appeared around April or May and is not contained to one geographic area with reports in the Mid-Atlantic states as well as the Midwest including here in Ohio. The mystery disease is also impacting a wide ranging number of birds among them: blue jays, European starlings, American robins, northern cardinals, grackles, house finches, house sparrows and Carolina chickadees and wrens.
Wildlife experts want people to remove their bird feeders and bird baths to help eliminate opportunities for multiple species and large numbers of birds to gather-potentially increasing the spread of whatever is making the birds sick.
This can be a tough recommendation for bird lovers and bird watchers. Sales of bird feed and feeders went up during 2020 as people turned to nature as the rest of our recreational outlets closed during the pandemic. This recommendation is expected to remain in place for the forseeable future until experts better understand what is causing the birds to get sick and die.
If it all sounds a little similar to what we all went through in 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic, that comparison in not lost on wildlife experts.
Stormy Gibson, Interim Executive Director of the Ohio Wildlife Center, says that testing on known potential causes for the disease have come back negative and that this appears to be something new.
While the number of backyard birds impacted is numerous, Gibson says to date water fowl, raptors, and hummingbirds have not been impacted..
This is an event that is being studied in real time and it will take the help of the public in order for wildlife experts to get a full picture of the mortality event.
That's where the role of "citizen scientists" is important says Brian Evans, PhD., an ornithologist at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.
The Migratory Bird Center has created a form for people to fill out to report a dead bird or one exhibiting some of the symptoms associated with the mystery disease.
By filling out the form, Evans says the public can help create a fuller picture of the extent of this mortality event.
Also on today's show, an interview with Peter Cannellos, the author of "The Great Dissenter: The Story of John Marshall Harlan, America's Judicial Hero."
Stormy Gibson, Interim Executive Director, Ohio Wildlife Center
Brian Evans, Ph.D., Ornithologist, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Peter Cannellos, Author, "The Great Dissenter: The Story of John Marshall Harlan, America's Judicial Hero"
David C. Barnett, Senior Arts Reporter, Ideastream Public Media
Laura Kepley, Artistic Director, Cleveland Play House