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Bird Flu of 2022 - How does avian flu impact wild birds and bird feeders?

Updated: Jun 5, 2022

Yes, it rhymed. Yes, the rhyme was intentional. New information has changed our current recommendations on bird feeders regarding bird flu.

An American Wigeon lifts its head while floating.
An American Wigeon was the first bird to test positive for "bird flu" during this 2022 outbreak. Waterfowl can often carry the disease without showing any effects.

If you want updates on diseases impacting birds, feeders, and other wildlife, join our site, where we provide researched updates frequently.

In any potential or realized avian disease outbreak, the safest way(s) to deter and mitigate against the spread of disease at your bird feeders is to:


You will be seeing us refer to avian flu in this article occasionally as bird flu. Why do we do that? Simple. Most people search and refer to avian influenza as bird flu. In order to ensure information can be found through search results, we are using some common phrases that are most frequently used. When we use avian flu, bird flu, or avian influenza in this article, we are referring to this current outbreak of HPAI A H5N1 and the associated subtypes being found in 2022 testing efforts.


Update 05/02/22: We have seen unofficial reports of 5-10 songbird species have tested positive, and the infection resulted in mortality. Keep up to date with us!


Update 05/31/22: We are sounding the all-clear for all feeders in North America. The numbers suggest any major threat has passed!


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What is the 2022 bird flu outbreak?

On January 13th, 2022, Eurasian H5 avian influenza (EA H5), a type of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), was detected in several waterfowl that were tested from the harvest of seasonal waterfowl hunts. This avian flu is caused specifically by the type A virus that can infect domestic poultry and wild birds such as waterfowl, raptors, and shorebirds. This avian influenza can have multiple subtypes but is often abbreviated as HPAI or H5N1, as mentioned above, to indicate that this strain is highly pathogenic, meaning it has a higher probability of killing its typical hosts, poultry.


Do wild birds carry avian flu?

Yes, wild birds can carry avian flu. However, it is typically only found in waterfowl, shorebirds, and the species that prey or scavenge upon the infected species. As of 4/10/2022, multiple songbirds have tested positive for HPAI in the United States (earlier in Canada), though most common feeder species have not been reported to have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza and its subtypes.


Do I need to take my bird feeders down due to avian flu?

Update 05/04/22: With the new reports of multiple songbird species (5+) being affected, if you live in an area with active transmission, we recommend the removal of bird feeders.


Previously: We have previously said that removing feeders was not necessary. However, several avian epidemiologists have recommended otherwise. Our new recommendation is to follow the guidance of your state and local wildlife agencies. We recommend feeder removal for 3-6 weeks if no guidance is provided for your area and you meet any of these conditions:

  • You have domestic poultry

  • Corvids (jays, crows, ravens, magpies) visit your feeders

  • You live on an active waterway or wetland

  • Live in an area with significant transmission rates

Previously we have not recommended removal because the risk of transmission is minimal to common feeder bird species unless you have domestic poultry, free-flying waterfowl, or some corvids (see update below) that also utilize your feeders. We advise all domestic fowl growers to remove their feeders immediately until this outbreak has passed in its entirety.


For those who do not remove their bird feeders, increasing cleaning practices during this time can only benefit bird species while also minimizing the threat of any diseases being spread at bird feeders.


The Wild Bird Feeding Institute is also providing guidance and updates on the bird flu situation.


If you want to learn about our feeder recommendations that reduce the threats of certain diseases, check out our favorite bird feeders! Or, if you want to learn how to attract birds to your yard, read our tips here!


If you have a question about feeder removal, you can call us at (307) 313-BIRD.

When can I hang my feeders back up?

If you live south of the 40th parallel (40°N), you should be safe to return your feeders by the 14th of May. For those of us living north of 40°N, we need to keep feeders down until the end of May if in an area with active case transmission. If you are unsure, keep your feeders down until the beginning of June.


A Black-billed Magpie in Wyoming tested positive on 4/14/22 for HPAI avian influenza.
A Black-billed Magpie in Wyoming tested positive on 4/10/22 for HPAI avian influenza.

Can HPAI bird flu impact songbirds?

Update 05/04/22: We have received unofficial reports of five to ten songbird species testing positive for HPAI avian flu in North America. Those species are Dark-eyed Junco, American Robin, American Crow, Black-billed Magpie, Blue Jay, and Common Raven. In controlled studies, songbird to songbird transmission did occur. However, confirmation of songbird to songbird transmission in the wild may be imminent. Please consider this possibility when making your decisions with bird feeders. We will update this article as new information presents itself.


A 10% bleach solution for soaking, after debris is removed, is the best way to clean bird feeders.
Clorox Outdoor Bleach

Use a 10% bleach solution as part of your bird feeder cleaning process.


Does avian flu pose a risk to wild bird populations?

No, while this strain of avian flu will kill some wild birds, it is currently not a serious threat to most wild bird populations. The loss of any bird life, especially raptors, is significant, but it should not permanently impact any species. While it may not be a serious threat to wild bird populations, monitoring wild birds for the disease can help agencies understand how the disease is spread and help to prevent infection of domestic flocks. Mitigating the loss of any avian life is critical, so while EA H5 may not wipe out millions of wild birds, the loss of any bird life hurts us here at Flocking Around.


Does avian flu pose a risk to domestic poultry?

Yes, this highly pathogenic avian influenza is a serious threat to domestic poultry. To understand the threats to domestic birds and how to prevent infection, visit the USDA site on its HPAI response. If you have any domestic poultry, it would be wise to read all the resources the USDA provides to keep domestic flocks safe.


Current status of HPAI in domestic poultry (updated 06/02/22)

Current HPAI status of domestic poultry in the United States.
Current HPAI status of domestic poultry in the United States.

Soak feeders in a bleach solution with this collapsible sink!
Collapsible sink for cleaning bird feeders

Do not use your kitchen sink for cleaning feeders! Use a secondary basin, like this collapsible sink.


Has avian flu been found near me?

As of April 5, 2022, this outbreak has spread from the Atlantic Flyway into the Pacific Flyway, though the majority of cases are restricted to the Atlantic Coast, Missouri River Valley, northern Great Plains, and Great Lakes. See the map below for the reported cases as of May 26, 2022.

USGS Map of HPAI H5 in North America
USGS Map of HPAI H5 "bird flu" spread in North America

Does bird flu pose a risk to humans?

As of 04/30/22, the first human infection of HPAI H5 viruses has been identified in the United States, per the CDC. If you have domestic poultry, extra PPE may be useful. Vigilance in cleaning and cooking poultry is paramount, but current responses from federal and state agencies are working to prevent any infected birds from reaching consumers. The threat to humans is still considered very low.



Vultures, like this Turkey Vulture, are a being reported with positive HPAI infections. In raptors, HPAI avian influenza often results in death.
Vultures, like this Turkey Vulture, are a being reported with positive HPAI infections. In raptors, HPAI avian influenza often results in death.

How to help prevent the spread of avian influenza

There are several steps you can take to help minimize the spread of avian influenza. Here are a few suggestions to prevent the spread of bird flu from various agencies and rescues:

  1. Report sick birds to your local wildlife agency.

    1. DO NOT catch and transport sick waterfowl, shorebirds, or raptors at this time.

  2. Defend your flock.

    1. Use the USDA's biosecurity measures for your domestic birds at home.

  3. Clean your shoes.

    1. This is a wise tip from several bird rescue facilities. After visiting any park where waterfowl or raptors are present, thoroughly clean and decontaminate your shoes. Avian influenza is spread through fecal material.

  4. Clean your feeders.

    1. This is always a good practice, but increase your cleaning measures during this time is the smart choice. If you have domestic fowl, please do stop feeding wild birds.

    2. If corvids, waterfowl, or gamebirds visit your feeders, we recommend feeder and birdbath removal for 3-6 weeks or until the transmission rate is low for your region.

  5. Stop feeding waterfowl.

    1. Feeding waterfowl creates artificial densities that help bird flu spread through the flock faster. Stop feeding waterfowl. And definitely do not ever feed birds bread.

  6. Support rehab centers.

    1. Find your local rehab center and see what ways you can help. From volunteerism to donations, rehab centers need it all.


8 Steps to help birds

Because many of the dangers native birds face are due to humans, there are small, incremental steps we can take in our own homes and yard to help our favorite feathered friends:


These small steps are actions anyone can take at home. They require minimal costs, minimal time, and the smallest levels of effort. Yet, if we love birds, why aren't we all taking them? If you want to visit the Roost (Flocking Around HQ), we guarantee you will see each of these efforts and more! We would not ask you to do something that we are not doing ourselves.


Summary of HPAI Detection Locations


United States HPAI Detections

State

Commercial Flocks

Backyard Flocks

Wild Birds

Alabama

X

Colorado

X

X

X

Connecticut

X

X

Delaware

X

X

Florida

X

Georgia

X

Idaho

X

Illinois

X

X

Indiana

X

X

Iowa

X

X

X

Kansas

X

X

Kentucky

X

X

Maine

X

X

Maryland

X

X

Massachusetts

X

X

Michigan

X

X

Minnesota

X

X

X

Missouri

X

X

X

Montana

X

X

United States cont.

State

Commercial Flocks

Backyard Flocks

Wild Birds

Nebraska

X

X

X

New Hampshire

X

X

New Jersey

X

New York

X

X

X

North Carolina

X

X

North Dakota

X

X

X

Ohio

X

X

Oklahoma

X

Pennsylvania

X

X

South Carolina

X

South Dakota

X

X

X

Tennessee

X

Texas

X

Utah

X

Vermont

X

Virginia

X

X

Wisconsin

X

X

X

Wyoming

X

X

Canada HPAI Detections

Province

Commercial Flocks

Backyard Flocks

Wild Birds

Alberta

X

X

British Columbia

X

X

Manitoba

X

New Brunswick

X

Newfoundland & Labrador

X

X

Nova Scotia

X

X

X

Ontario

X

X

X

Prince Edward Island

X

Quebec

X

X

X

Saskatchewan

X

X

X


 

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