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DNR says Hoosiers can resume feeding birds after outbreak of mysterious illness

Those who return to feeding birds are strongly encouraged to wash the feeders regularly.

INDIANAPOLIS — Bird lovers across Indiana can once again feed their feathered friends, the Department of Natural Resources announced.

In June, Indiana DNR recommended not feeding birds to slow the spread of a still-undetermined illness that killed songbirds across the state. Last month, the department lifted the restrictions on all but 16 of Indiana's 92 counties.

Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Marion and Morgan counties in the metropolitan Indianapolis area were still under the restriction until Friday, as well as Carroll, Monroe and Tippecanoe counties in central Indiana.

"The actions of many Hoosiers significantly helped the DNR’s work related to the disease outbreak. By taking down their feeders and submitting more than 4,300 reports, residents enabled DNR staff track the disease, detect regional differences, and provide updated recommendations for feeding birds," Indiana DNR wrote in a release Friday announcing the lifting of feeding restrictions.

RELATED: Silent summer: Dead songbirds have now been found in more than 40 Indiana counties

DNR biologists looked over more than 750 cases of sick or deceased birds that had symptoms including crusty eyes, eye discharge and neurological issues. The mysterious illness impacted mostly songbirds, including robins, cardinals and blue jays. 

DNR has ruled out some possible causes including 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.  

RELATED: Indiana DNR reports 10 bird species found sick, dying from mysterious illness

The department said Hoosiers can put bird feeders back out "if they are comfortable doing so" and have not observed dead or sick birds in their yard. 

Despite removing the restrictions, Indiana DNR still encourages people to clean seed and suet feeders at least once every two weeks, scrubbing them with soap and water, then soaking briefly in a 10% bleach solution. Rinse and dry the feeders before refilling them with seed.

Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned weekly with a 10% bleach solution, then rinsed before being used.

(NOTE: The video below was first published on June 28, 2021.)

Hoosiers who are still finding sick or dead birds on their property are asked to report them to the Indiana DNR online at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife.