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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has identified more than 280 sick or dead songbirds in 53 Indiana counties since May.

DNR said the issue primarily affects blue jays, American robins, common grackles, starlings, northern cardinals and brown-headed cowbirds. Other species may be affected.

While final laboratory results are pending from the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, DNR has ruled out several illnesses.

All birds have tested negative for avian influenza, West Nile virus, and other flaviviruses, Salmonella and Chlamydia (bacterial pathogens), Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses, herpesviruses and poxviruses, and Trichomonas parasites, the agency said.

Symptoms include neurological problems, eye discharge, swelling of the head and poor limb control, according to Allisyn Gillet, an ornithologist with DNR. The cause is unknown, and the problem has been found in birds in other states, including Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.

Indiana’s first cases were discovered in Monroe County in May, according to Gillet.

“Because the cause of the disease remains unknown, we recommend that residents across the state stop feeding birds until the mortality event has concluded,” Gillet said.

“We do not anticipate that removing feeds will impact populations of wild birds,” she said. “There are abundant food resources available to birds at this time of the year, including insects, berries, nectar and seeds.”

Gillet said removing bird feeders is intended to prevent birds from gathering in common areas, possibly transmitting disease from bird to bird.

Gillet said it would take some time to discover the cause of the illness because test results aren’t immediate. She likened it to “finding a needle in a haystack.”

Here are the counties with cases:

  • Allen
  • Bartholomew
  • Benton
  • Boone
  • Brown
  • Carroll
  • Cass
  • Clark
  • Clinton
  • Decatur
  • Delaware
  • Elkhart
  • Fayette
  • Floyd
  • Gibson
  • Grant
  • Greene
  • Hamilton
  • Hancock
  • Harrison
  • Hendricks
  • Henry
  • Howard
  • Jackson
  • Jasper
  • Jefferson
  • Johnson
  • Kosciusko
  • LaGrange
  • Lake
  • LaPorte
  • Lawrence
  • Madison
  • Marion
  • Monroe
  • Morgan
  • Newton
  • Ohio
  • Orange
  • Parke
  • Porter
  • Pulaski
  • Putnam
  • Randolph
  • Shelby
  • Starke
  • St. Joseph
  • Tippecanoe
  • Union
  • Vanderburgh
  • Warrick
  • Washington
  • Whitley