Florence birdwatchers concerned over mysterious bird illness


FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — A mysterious new illness is killing birds across the eastern United States and leaving scientists confused.

A bird expert with the South Carolina Department of Natural resources said she’s not aware of any cases in our area, though it has spread across several other states. One Florence birdwatcher said she has concerns about the pathogen’s potential impacts on the ecosystem.

“Things could happen that may surprise you, that you may never have thought of,” birdwatcher Lynn Prosser said. “Horrible way to be sick and I don’t want it to spread.”

As a former earth science teacher, Prosser has been birdwatching since she was a child. She said she is on the lookout for sick birds.

“They noticed birds with crusty eyes and they seemed to be unstable,” bird conservation coordinator Amy Tegeler with SCDNR said. “Wobbly movements, indicating some kind of neurological issue.”

She said scientists aren’t yet sure what is killing the birds. A similar bird epidemic broke out in the spring. Scientists determined that was caused by salmonella, but that is not the case with this illness.

“It’s also been determined that it’s not some of the more common diseases like pox, west nile or even influenza so we’re not exactly sure,” Tegeler said.

She suggested a few steps people can take to keep the spread away from the area.

“Keep their bird feeders and bird baths clean,” Tegeler said. “It’s important to clean them at least once a month with one part bleach and nine parts hot water.”

She said if you see a bird displaying these symptoms, you should remove all birdbaths and bird feeders for two weeks. She said infected bird carcasses are being tested to find a solution.

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