Avian Flu Wild Birds Updates
The Wild Bird Feeding Institute has been diligently monitoring the outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus [HPAI A(H5N1)] outbreak in the United States and Canada. The risk of transmission to humans is very low; there have been no reported human cases in the U.S. So far, there is no evidence that the disease is spread by bird feeders, but experts are advising hobbyists to air on the side of caution.
READ: Jenna McCullough, WBFI Partnered Researcher on What is bird flu and how does it spread?
Avain Flu Update- April 10, 2023
The Wild Bird Feeding Institute diligently monitors Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus outbreaks in the United States and Canada. The risk of transmission to humans is very low and there has been no evidence that the disease is spread by bird feeders, but experts are advising hobbyists to err on the side of caution.
What is the current status of HPAI in North America?
According to the USDA, only seventeen flocks have had confirmed positive birds since the start of 2023. These three months combine for less than the total for December, indicating a hopeful slowing of infection in commercial poultry. The number of afflicted domestic birds has also decreased by over 80% since December. However, the number of affected backyard flocks is still lingering on the higher side, signaling a potential need for backyard growers to continue tightening their security protocols against infection.
In wild birds, the USGS is reporting around 4,400 confirmed cases in wild birds in the United States since January 2023. However, a significant percentage of these cases are related to a prolonged mortality event that began in November 2022. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is reporting less than 100 confirmed/suspected cases in that same timeframe. The level of monitoring conducted in Canada is not currently known. The majority of infected individuals come from waterfowl. Unfortunately, raptors that scavenge on the waterfowl carcasses are also disproportionately affected. Bald Eagles have had numerous mortalities recorded due to their propensity to follow migratory waterfowl flocks and feed on injured and sick birds. The long-term implications for Bald Eagle populations are unknown, but in the short term, biologists and conservation groups are concerned about existing nests and their immediate success.
Domestic and wild birds both continue to be impacted by HPAI. Still, cyclical relief is expected again during the summer once waterfowl migration has ended and birds disperse to breeding territories.
Will HPAI impact spring migration?
As waterfowl flocks move north to their breeding grounds, newly confirmed cases of HPAI will shift with them. Expect new infected events to appear in areas where migratory waterfowl flocks congregate, but those cases will dissipate quickly as the flocks continue their journey.
According to current research, songbirds and their relatives are not at risk from HPAI. Biologists continue to monitor for potential HPAI threats to smaller birds, and WBFI will continue to provide updates as they become available. In the meantime, migration for these birds should continue as usual, though other threats are still present for these feathered friends!
Do I need to remove my bird feeders during migration?
The low risk to songbirds and hummingbirds suggests that feeding birds during the spring migration season should be safe in all regions. There are some exceptions:
- People feeding birds with domestic backyard flocks should not leave feeders up.
- Those with wild waterfowl visiting their yards and feeders should remove feeders until the waterfowl depart.
- People living in areas with high numbers of confirmed HPAI cases should consider a temporary removal until those cases have decreased.
For those helping migratory birds this season, continue regular cleaning practices from the WBFI #FEEDSMART resource page. If you see a sick bird, increase cleaning practices until those birds are no longer present.
HPAI continues to be a threat to waterfowl and raptors in North America. Fortunately, songbird lovers can feel safe, as HPAI continues to have a minimal impact on their favorite feeder birds.
The Smithsonian National Zoo collects reports of sick birds on a national scale. Read more about the Sick Wild Bird Report. You should also report the illness to your local or state wildlife department.
Hobbyists should ALWAYS use best feeding practices and clean feeders, birdbaths, and around feeding areas regularly to help stop the spread of diseases in birds.
Visit https://www.wbfi.org/feedsmart/ for resources and more information on how to utilize best bird feeding practices.