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Bird flu update: Fall 2022

Bird flu never really went away. But now, it will make an obvious reappearance during fall migration.

A Canada Goose walks down a sidewalk.
Waterfowl, like this Canada Goose, are known carriers of HPAI.

If you want updates on diseases impacting birds, feeders, and other wildlife, join our site, where we provide well-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:


When you see avian influenza, bird flu, and HPAI or H5N1 in this article, these terms all refer to this ongoing viral outbreak. To get a more in-depth understanding of how HPAI impacts songbirds and bird feeders, check out our article from spring!


What is the current status of avian influenza in wild birds in the US and Canada?

Currently, HPAI-positive cases are beginning to increase again. As more wild birds are migrating and are harvested during fall migration, we can expect more positive cases to appear. HPAI did not decrease during the summer of 2022 but was isolated to localized levels. Nesting colonies may have paid the biggest price, as HPAI wiped out hundreds to thousands of nests across the globe during the recent nesting season. Scientists and conservationists are working to determine the extent of the damage to afflicted species, though we may not understand HPAI's impact for several years.


What is the current status of bird flu in domestic birds in the US?

Cases of HPAI in domestic flocks decreased during the summer of 2022 but picked back up as August led into September. For the month of September, over 6 million domestic birds have tested positive (or been part of a flock with positive tests). This is up from .6 million in August, a ten-fold increase!


 

Remove all debris, then soak in a 10% bleach solution to keep feeders and other surfaces clean from HPAI!

Clorox Outdoor Bleach
 

How many wild birds have tested positive for bird flu during fall migration?

The data is scattered and difficult for agencies to track, but from what is available in federal databases, there have been over 600 positive cases of bird flu found in wild birds since August 1st in the United States and over 450 cases in Canada. These cases have been spread across all regions in both countries.

Locations of positive tests of bird flu as of 9/24/22.
Locations of positive tests of bird flu as of 9/24/22.

What is HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza)?

In the United States in early 2022, Eurasian H5 avian influenza (EA H5), a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), was detected in several waterfowl tested from the harvest of seasonal waterfowl hunts. Birds were previously detected in Canada as early as November 2021. This avian flu is caused specifically by the type A virus that can infect domestic poultry and wild birds. 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.


Can songbirds carry avian flu?

All wild birds can carry avian flu though it is most prevalent in waterfowl, shorebirds, and the species that prey or scavenge upon infected carcasses. However, during the spring of 2022, a significant number of songbirds 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.

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