MANSFIELD -- An unknown disease, thus far primarily affecting songbirds, has led the Ohio Bird Sanctuary to issue a caution to residents planning to bring a feathered friend to the facility.
In a social media post on Wednesday, the OBS asked residents to call for information and instructions before bringing any birds to the facility for treatment.
"An unknown disease is affecting songbirds throughout the region. The cause or transmission is currently unknown. Facilities from multiple states have sent specimens for testing. We are awaiting results to know how to best address this," the Facebook post said.
OBS bird curator Amanda Maugans said there have been no reports of birds in northern Ohio afflicted with the disease, which is reportedly causing blindness, neurological issues and even death among birds, especially among bluejays and grackles.
"This may have started in in the Washington, D.C. and Virginia area at the end of May," Maugans said, adding other facilities in southern Ohio have reported ill birds and sent samples for testing.
A story in the Washington Post on May 26 said, "Wildlife experts say that an unusual number of blind birds have been found dead or dying in the Washington region lately, and they don’t know why."
According to the article, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (Va.) released a public service announcement about the increase in calls they have received since May 18 about sick and injured young birds.
“Eye issues were reported in what otherwise looked like healthy juvenile birds, causing blindness and the birds to land and stay on the ground,” the announcement says. “Animal Control is now seeing additional species of birds affected. Other agencies and localities across the region and state are reporting similar issues at this time.”
Maugans said the OBS is trying to be proactive since little is known yet about the potential for transmission of the disease from bird to bird.
"We are asking people to call us before they bring birds to us," Maugans said. "We can better address what issues they may be having before they come to the facility."
She reiterated no birds in the area have been found with the disease.
"We are just trying to be on our toes and to protect the birds in our rehabilitation facility and who live here permanently," said Maugans, a licensed veterinary technician with 10 years experience in the care and training of birds.
Any birds brought to OBS, located at 3774 Orweiler Road in Mansfield, for now will be evaluated by staff members outside of the facility's buildings before care decisions are made.
One possibility for the outbreak of the disease is the possible use of pesticide on the large brood of cicadas that recently emerged in some areas of the country, including the Mid-Atlantic states. Birds often feed on the insects and perhaps the disease could be linked, Maugans said.
If area residents find ill or dead birds, they may contact the OBS at 419-884-4295 for information and assistance, she said.
"We can offer some step-by-step procedures and walk them through how to get the bird off their property," Maugans said.