What You Need to Know
You may have heard about avian influenza (or “bird flu”) and the development of this disease in North America. At this point in time, wildlife and health experts say you may continue feeding the birds. Here are the facts as we know them today.
Since Fall of 2021, a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI H5N1) has been detected in numerous outbreaks in North America. It is a naturally-occurring virus especially prevalent among wild aquatic birds such as ducks, geese and shorebirds and has been shown to affect commercial and backyard poultry with high mortality.
However, according to the Cornell University Wildlife Health Lab, “Passerines [song birds] do not seem susceptible to HPAI and are not thought to play a significant role in spreading this virus. We are not recommending removal of bird feeders at this point.”
And the Institute for Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases at U Penn Vet School states, “According to the USDA, there is no evidence that birdfeeders, or the birds that frequent them, contribute to the spread of HPAI.”
The US Department of Agriculture further states, “HPAI viruses and the illness they cause are not commonly found in wild birds…removing backyard feeders is not somethings USDA specifically recommends to prevent avian influenza unless you also take care of poultry.” Also, the Government of Canada affirms, “The use of bird feeders is still safe but they should be removed from areas that are open to poultry and other domestic animals.”
To practice the hobby of bird feeding safely and to ensure the birds’ overall health, it is always recommended you clean your bird feeders regularly with a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water.
Avian Flu in the News
Wild Birds Unlimited is closely monitoring the Avian Flu (bird flu) outbreak in the United States and Canada. We are committed to keeping you and your family safe and informed about issues that may affect the hobby of bird feeding. Your safety and the health of birds and wildlife are our primary concern.
We are actively connected with the proper wild bird and health experts to keep our customers informed of any developments that could affect safe backyard bird feeding practices.
What is Avian Flu?
- Avian influenza refers to the infection of birds with avian influenza Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide such as ducks, geese and shorebirds.
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Public Health Agency of Canada currently deem this outbreak to be of low human health risk.
- No human avian flu infections have occurred in North America as a result of the current outbreak in wild birds or domestic poultry.
- In other countries that experienced past avian flu outbreaks, wild birds have not played a role in the transmission of the disease to humans. Human infections with other avian influenza viruses have only occurred after close and prolonged contacts with infected poultry or the excretions/secretions of infected poultry.
Is it Still Safe to Feed the Birds?
- There is no need to stop watching, feeding or attracting birds to your yard because of avian flu.
- There is no evidence humans are at risk of contracting avian flu from backyard birds or bird feeding.
- The backyard birds that visit our feeders appear to be significantly less susceptible and much less likely to become a source for the virus.
- As with any bird or animal, wild or domestic, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions after direct or indirect contact. Be careful around animal droppings or water used by birds and animals; wash your hands after contact with soap and water.
- It’s always a good idea to practice responsible bird feeding on a regular basis. Clean and sanitize all bird feeders, bird baths and hardware with a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water). Rinse thoroughly and allow to completely dry before refilling feeders and baths.
Contact the DNR for the following: Birds (all species) showing obvious neurologic symptoms.
Head tilt, Circling in one direction Body/barrel rolling.
Continuous tremors, Any obvious abnormal continuous/repetitive movements.
Birds (all species) showing obvious upper respiratory symptoms.
Sneezing Coughing Visible nasal discharge.
Audible sinus/upper respiratory congestion sounds.
You can contact the DNR Wildlife Hotline by emailing [email protected] or leaving a voicemail at 608-267-0866.