Mysterious songbird disease no longer a threat

Good news for birds, squirrels and whatever else comes to your yard to gorge on your bird feeder: The mysterious disease that was affecting songbirds this summer “seems to have wound down on its own,” said Scott Silver, director of the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Garrison. 

“In fact, New York state seems to have avoided the problem,” he said.

As a result, the Audubon Society says that New Yorkers can put their bird feeders back up. The organization, along with other naturalist groups, recommended over the summer that New Yorkers temporarily remove feeders because of a disease that was affecting songbirds in many mid-Atlantic states. 

The disease still has not been identified, but the fact that it died out quickly would seem to rule out an infection. Eleven states where the disease appeared also saw the return of the infamous Brood X cicadas, which emerge every 17 years. This has led to the hypothesis that birds that ate the brood became ill. Brood X did not appear in New York, although it showed up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. If the hypothesis is accurate, songbirds can rest easy until 2038.

Local birds shouldn’t have been affected too much by the lack of feeders over the summer, since that’s when plenty of bugs are around. But with the weather cooling, Silver said that the feeders will again be useful. 

“Birds do not rely on fat reserves like mammals do,” he explained. “So when it gets cold, they increase their food intake to keep themselves warm.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Skidmore College graduate has reported for The Current since 2014 and writes the "Out There" column. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Areas of Expertise: Environment, outdoors

One reply on “A Green Light for Bird Feeders”

  1. Up here in the North Highlands, the birdfeeder-seeking bears are still a threat. We’re going to wait a couple of weeks to put them back out. [via Facebook]

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