Alert for Bird Lovers: Remove Your Feeders, For Now

by | Jul 12, 2021

A few weeks ago, hubby and I moved to a house nestled near a wooded area that’s teeming with beautiful birds. Eager to welcome our new neighbors, my husband foraged through the moving boxes to find our bird feeder. Then we read a disturbing alert advising bird lovers to remove their feeders (including hummingbird feeders) to help stop the spread of a mysterious disease.

Credit: Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Our songbird friends are getting sick and dying in a number of states, including Pennsylvania. Twelve species of adult and young birds have been reported with ocular and neurologic issues. These include: Blue Jay, European Starling, Common Grackle, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, and Carolina Wren.

To date, no one knows why birds are getting sick and dying.

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

 Here’s what you can do to help protect the birds in your community:

  • Until further notice, stop feeding birds and providing water in bird baths. By eliminating places where birds congregate, we help reduce the chance of spreading the illness.
  • Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10 percent bleach solution.
  • Make sure your pets stay away from sick or dead birds.
  • If you need to handle a dead or sick bird, wear disposable gloves. If you find a dead bird, use a sealable plastic bag and discard it in the trash.
  • If you find a dead bird or spot one with symptoms including discharge and/or crusting around the eyes, lesions on the eyes, or neurological issues displayed by  falling over, stumbling, or experiencing head tremors, report the information HERE.


Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash 

Please remember, even when it’s time to put your feeders back outside, it’s important to clean them each week to keep our avian friends healthy. 

The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania recently sent an email alert with recommendations on how to clean your bird feeders:

  • Start by washing your feeder with soap and water. 
  • Disinfect with bleach solution (1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water), and soak for 15-20 minutes. 
  • Give it a good rinse. 
  • Make sure the feeder is completely dry before you refill it.


Credit: Photo by Jill Wellington of Pixabay

Hopefully, scientists will soon discover how to stop this mystery bird disease and we will have the privilege of feeding our avian friends once again.


Aimee Douglass is the Director of Compassionate Living. Aimee works in the healthcare industry and has a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a masters degree in Communications with a health care focus from Southern New Hampshire University.

Abhi Nadendla is a blogger at HAP and has been volunteering at the organization since late 2022. She is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and loves spending her free time helping out at animal shelters.

Hannah Lewis is a grant writer and blogger from Pittsburgh’s North Side who has been with HAP since 2020. In addition to writing and advocating for animals, she enjoys hiking, cooking plant-based meals, bouldering at her local climbing gym, and curling up with a good book and her long-haired cat, Freyja.

Kelly Frantz has recently joined the HAP family as a blog writer. She is passionate about animal protection and is excited to educate the community about animal welfare.