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. Avian influenza 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.

In Oregon, as of May 19 avian flu HPAI has been found in some waterfowl and a very limited number of raptors in Linn and Lane Counties. There is no need to take down backyard bird feeders, as doing so accomplishes nothing to benefit the birds or you! Waterfowl and poultry are the main species where the disease has been found, along with a limited number of raptors or scavengers who feed on these high-risk species.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife states "This strain of avian flu is not known to be a threat to songbirds, but keep your feeders clean and take them down if you see sick or dead birds near your feeder or in your neighborhood."

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.”

In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Public Health Agency of Canada currently deem H5N1 to be of low human health risk.

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.

Offering healthy food to our feathered friends is good for them, as long as it is done in a responsible manner. Studies have shown increased survival rates of birds with access to feeders during periods of harsh weather conditions. In addition, birds with access to supplemental food also have increased nesting success. So, keep your feeders full and all your backyard habitat components clean. Enjoy your birds and rest assured that you are helping them prosper.

 


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