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SCOTT DREYER: Mysterious Bird Ailment

There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away(Emphasis mine) – Hosea 4:2-3

Have you heard the phrase “fire and brimstone” used to describe divine judgment and wrath? However, did you know the Bible says that messed-up humanity also triggers suffering among animals and wildlife?

Please do not take my word for it; reread the verse above. It claims, because of human wrongdoing, injustice, and “lack of boundaries,” the land dries up and beasts, birds, and fish are swept away.

Granted, the Bible is a thick book and Hosea 4:2-3 is just one excerpt. However Jeremiah, known as “the weeping prophet,” continues the theme:

 I will weep and wail for the mountains and take up a lament concerning the wilderness grasslands. They are desolate and untraveled, and the lowing of cattle is not heard. The birds have all fled and the animals are gone. (Emphasis mine) – Jeremiah 9:10

How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, “He will not see what happens to us.” (Emphasis mine) – Jeremiah 12:4

If you remember your middle school and high school English classes, you may remember that, in literature, “repetition implies importance.” So, we see at least three verses in the Bible that claim human wrongdoing spells suffering for nature and wildlife.

Male Cardinal, State Bird of VA, WV, and 5 other states

That came to mind recently when I learned of a mysterious bird illness that was first identified in Northern Virginia but has since been spotted in parts of Washington D.C., Maryland, West Virginia, and Kentucky. In Virginia alone since May, the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has received reports of over 1,400 sick or dead birds. So far, it has not been reported in the Roanoke Valley or Southwest Virginia.

Common symptoms include crusty eyes and poor balance. Thus far blue jays, starlings, and robins have been most commonly afflicted, but it has affected other bird species too.

Scientists are studying the issue but so far have not identified the cause or solution. In the meantime, in hopes of preventing the spread, bird lovers are asked to take down their bird feeders and birdbaths. (This being summer, birds should be able to find enough natural foods on their own.) Removing bird feeders and birdbaths will help keep birds from congregating and infecting each other as easily. In other words, it is a way for birds to practice their own “social distancing.”

Let us all do what we can to help our local wildlife, and if that means making some lifestyle changes, we might all be the better for it!

Scott Dreyer in his classroom.

– Scott Dreyer




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