Large number of dead birds found in yards likely died from West Nile, DNR says

Posted at 9:14 PM, Oct 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-09 22:19:44-04

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. -- West Nile virus is still a cause for concern in West Michigan, but it's not just affecting humans. Some residents are noticing an increased number of dead birds in their yards, and the Department of Natural Resources believes that’s from West Nile, too.

The Michigan DNR already has almost 90 cases of West Nile in birds and there’s still some time before the mosquitoes are gone for good. They recommend you do a few things to protect the wildlife in your backyards.

"We have a lot of activity," said Hudsonville resident Carla Hill. "The mothers have their babies and then they start flying and they come down and she feeds them, we watch all of that and that’s fun.”

Hill and her husband Craig enjoy watching all the wildlife from their deck in Hudsonville.

"At times there will be as many as 100 [birds] down there in the winter," said Craig Hill. "They just climb over each other to get at the feed."

There used to be six bird feeders in their yard, but now, they’re all gone, as are many of the birds.

"In the last month, we’ve had four that we know of that have died and could be more," said Craig.

Craig says three blue jays and a cardinal have been found dead on their property and  he and his wife noticed the birds acting strange for days before they finally passed away.

"They were sitting on the edge of the bird bath for hours and it’s not normal," said Craig. "Usually they’re there for a couple minutes not hours. That’s how we knew something was wrong.”

"They were acting lethargic," said Carla. "Just really laid back and that’s not how blue jays are. He couldn’t hold himself up, he toppled over, he couldn’t get himself righted back up and that’s the way he stayed, and he passed away in maybe a half hour time after that.”

They brought one blue jay to a DNR field office in Plainwell.

"The lady there said she was over 90 percent sure it was West Nile Virus, so they are going to notify us with the results," said Carla.

"We handled four birds today that had a history that was consistent with West Nile and wouldn’t be surprised if they were positive," said Tom Cooley, wildlife biologist and pathologist for the Michigan DNR.

Cooley says the number of birds with West Nile has actually gone down from last year when there were 220 confirmed cases from 62 counties. So far in 2018, there are 89 cases.

Cooley says the biggest thing residents should do is get rid of any standing water.

"The mosquitoes primarily responsible for the transfer of West Nile are ones that has a very quick life cycle, you’re looking at around a week for eggs to be laid to them hatching to adult mosquitoes occurring," said Cooley. "If you have any kind of a water source that holds water for that length of time that you can dump, whether it’s a flower pot or wheel barrel or bucket or bird bath, any of those types of things, change the water or empty the water on a weekly basis and then it’s not going to be around to serve as a source for the mosquitoes to transmit that disease.”

Cooley also recommends getting rid of any bird feeders you might have on your property.

If you find a bird you think is infected with West Nile, store it in a freezer, but make sure not to touch it, then you can bring it to a DNR field office for testing.