Skip to main content

Photo Submission

Submitted By

Carole Jamerson

Oriental, NC, United States


During the past several weeks I observed an occasional blackbird that acted sick–staying on the ground when other birds spooked and flew, fluffed up feathers, sitting with eyes closed, occasionally pumping up and down in place. One dead male red wing was found on the ground–nothing out of the ordinary was obvious. All other sick redwings were female (probably same bird as only one was seen at any one time).

Today I observed a female redwing and one female cardinal with fluffed feathers, mostly feeding on the ground and then sitting close together, eyes closed. The redwing’s right eye was mostly closed; feathers on head and around eyes looked wet. Another female redwing had the same symptoms. All three birds were feeding, could fly if they had to, but were not part of the flock.

I have attached pictures but the weather has been rainy, cold, and dark so photos are not great.


Sick behavior

Sick Red-winged Blackbirds And Northern Cardinal

21 replies on “Sick red-winged blackbirds and northern cardinal”

Debbie Wright says:

I have the same problem here in Port St. Joe, FL. Two male red-winged and one female. 1 male and 1 female have been found dead, the 3rd is still sick, but alive. They sit in the feeder, a bit puffed up and do not move when I come close or when the other birds fly.

What is going on with these large blackbirds or crows in Grand Rapids Michigan they are on the ground and can’t fly also having a hard time breathing and then they die what if anything can I do to help them !!! ???

Jessie says:

I have the Sam thing. Picked up a young male redwing this morning in my driveway. Eyes watery just sitting. It was sitting in my hand and when I pi ked up my Camera he flew off. Two others sitting on a feeder with feathers fluffed. Whole flock flew off except the two.

Stefanie says:

I took down my feeders for a few weeks after seeing sick goldfinches and northern cardinals. It is really sad.

Mary says:

Here in Grapevine, TX, a suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth, I have had several sick female Red-wing Blackbirds exhibiting the same symptoms mentioned in other posts. I have not seen this in years past. One was easy prey for a Cooper’s Hawk another was found dead with no apparent cause of death visible still others are slow to react to my approach and then just flutter to the first branch they find. I haven’t noticed any issues with their eyes. Anyone know what is afflicting them?

Teresa says:

I’ve seen the same problem here in Panama City, FL. Separate incidents…two female redwings. Then a male. Puffed up…flock flies off, but sick bird stays behind. Can approach them…can’t see any obvious eye issues like sometimes seen with finches…but birds are slow to react. Other species seem OK. Any updates on this?

Jean Griffin says:

Here in Seabrook, TX, two female redwing blackbirds found dead in the last 2 days. I had noticed them not able to fly very far and staying close to the feeder a day or two before they were discovered dead. They came in at the beginning of the week with a large flock of redwing blackbirds. Last year we also had 2 or 3 female redwing blackbirds found dead in our yard that had come in with a flock.

Jerry Smith says:

How do I HELP a sick northern cardinals.

Chelsea Benson says:

Hi Jerry, you can contact a wildlife rehabilitator from this directory:

David Nuber says:

Like many of the comments above I too have a sick male red-winged blackbird. Feathers are puffed slow and lethargic left eye appears to be damaged or gone. Does not spook with rest of the birds, and is having difficulty eating. The beak appears not to move. I thought it was odd the way he was pecking at the seeds on the ground, almost as if he couldn’t see what he was eating. I suspect it won’t be long before he’s dead, and I’m worried about my neighbor’s outdoor cats.

Mindy says:

Two years ago, I had 9 female RWBBs die in the same way out in my backyard. It was early spring I believe. Watery looking eyes that kind of crusted over…..seemed to have trouble seeing and flying and reacting to danger. Today (Feb15 2018) I found another female RWBB dead on the ground who was almost still warm. I also observed a young female Northern Cardinal sitting on the ground seemingly having trouble reacting to danger and seemed to have trouble seeing and would only fly for a few feet. What in the world is happening? I believe it is something on the seed….maybe something the sunflowers or sorghum or corn is sprayed with that is poisoning our backyard friends. I buy seed at Walmart, Lowe’s and Atwood’s, a local farm supply place. It would be interesting to see where everyone else has been buying seed who also has this same problem with the birds. It infuriates me to think that these birds who are hungry and trust me, are being poisoned by what I give them! We need to all get together and figure this out!

Ava says:

It’s probably a sickness rather than a problem with the seed, but you never know.

Shari Schauer says:

I’ve had the same problem. I had a red wing blackbird female a few weeks ago that stayed on the ground or would hop up to the feeder but would not go very far. It looked kind of fat. It flew up to my neighbors tree and the next day I found it on the ground dead. I have another one today that is staying very close to the feeders. Right now it is sleeping on my house feeder in a close space which I’m sure that’s to keep it warm.

Ann Crider says:

I found a dead cardinal last week, saw a puffed up one this morning on the ground,not flying. Also saw a cowbird last week that let me walk right up to it on the ground. Couldn’t fly. I have lived here in MS in the same house 26 years. Never seen this before.

Larry Spence says:

Ringgold, VA.
Found a dead female cardinal in my back yard a couple weeks ago near the feeder. No apparent injuries. Today there was another female on my back deck sitting there, feathers roughed up, eyes closed. I walked right up to it and it opened it’s eyes but seemed confused. Floundered a bit then flew a short distance. Read that it may be salmonella. I’m throwing away my feeder and seed and replacing with new. Not buying the same seed again. Hope that solves it.

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Larry, Any time you find a sick bird, the best thing to do is to take down your feeders and clean them. Cleaning them regularly (every 1-2 weeks) is the best way to prevent disease, even when you see no sick birds. You can learn more about bird diseases and how best to clean your feeders here.

Fred hOHN says:

I have 1 Cardinal (male) and 1 Bluejay without head feathers. Is this normal molting or are they diseased?

Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

Hi Fred, the bald-headed birds you describe are exhibiting an abnormal molting pattern, one that shows up most often in those two species particularly. You can read more information about the phenomenon here.

Julie Stevens says:

I have a sick red-winged blackbirds. I have also found a dead Grackle in my yard. I am in Northeast lower Michigan. I also have free range chickens and am concerned about them getting sick. I have tried to report these bird deaths to the DNR but they only want info on waterfowl or forbids. Any advice?

Heidi Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hello Julie, Thank you for your concern about sick birds. The Cornell Lab recently put out a statement about the avian flu that is primarily impacting waterfowl and domestic poultry. It makes sense to discontinue feeding waterfowl and to keep domestic poultry away from wild bird feeding stations, but there’s no evidence that discontinuing feeding other wild birds will have any impact on the spread of the disease. We recommend that you watch for alerts from your state’s environmental protection agency or health department and follow their directives.

I need help for these beautiful big black birds they are suffering from something !!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Nearby Submissions
Recently Liked