Residents can resume one of the country’s most popular past times: feeding the birds.

As bird deaths decrease, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced Friday that it is lifting its recommendation issued in early July to cease bird feeding in the state because of a mysterious bird illness.

Longtime bird-feeding aficionados Patrick and Mardelle Kopnicky of Fawn were thrilled to hear the news.

The couple has been feeding their avian friends for 40 years. They have at least six feeders. The couple enjoys a sunroom, which they call a nature room because the feeders are strategically placed for viewing.

“We would see 10 species at one time, and it’s been a pleasure,” Mardelle said. “We’ve been missing them.”

The ban on feeding was prompted by reports in Pennsylvania and neighboring states of birds dying with crusted-over eyes and potential neurological problems.

The commission is recommending that residents can resume bird feeding because there are decreasing numbers of sick and dead wild birds, according to Travis Lau, commission spokesman, in Friday’s press statement.

The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, which also urged the public to stop feeding the birds in early July, agrees with the commission. It is resuming its sales of bird feed at its nature stores, said Audubon spokeswoman Rachel Handel.

“People were very understanding of the reasoning behind keeping feeders inside,” she said. “The priority was, and is, bird safety. Now that we believe the illness is no longer a threat to the birds, people may replace their bird and hummingbird feeders, as well as birdbaths.”

Birds that have died of the mysterious illness include blue jays, European starlings, common grackles, American robins, northern cardinals, house finches, house sparrows, eastern bluebirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, Carolina chickadees and Carolina wrens.

Much is still unknown about what caused the birds deaths in at least 10 states and Washington, D.C.

“No definitive cause of illness or death has been determined,” Lau said. “But research has ruled out many potential causes, and there is no indication that feeding birds or maintaining birdbaths were contributing factors.”

Scientists will continue to search for answers, Lau said.

The game commission credited the public with helping researchers learn more about the disease.

“All those extra sets of eyes and ears enable us to respond as quickly as possible and resolve or investigate the situation,” said Game Commission wildlife veterinarian Andrew Di Salvo.

Numerous agencies and universities continue to investigate the illness. Among them is the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program.

For those putting their feeders back up, Audubon recommends removing any remaining seed from the feeder and cleaning it.

Game commission recommendations for bird feeding:

• Because birds congregate at bird feeders and baths, clean the equipment weekly. Use soap and water, then disinfect with a 10% household bleach solution.

After allowing 10 minutes of contact time, rinse with clean water and allow to air dry. When feeding birds, follow expert recommendations such as those listed in Audubon International’s Guide to Bird Feeding.

• Remain vigilant and report any sick or dead wild birds to your local Pennsylvania Game Commission office.

• Keep pets away from sick or dead wild birds.

• Avoid handling wild birds. If you must do so, wear disposable gloves or use inverted plastic bags on your hands to avoid direct contact. Dead birds can be disposed of in a closed plastic bag in household trash or buried deeply, greater than 3 feet deep, to prevent disease transmission to other animals.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, mthomas@triblive.com or via Twitter .





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