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

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

If you live in an area with active bird flu transmission, we recommend the temporary removal of bird feeders or an increased cleaning regimen if you meet any of the following 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

**If you are unsure what recommendation to use, we suggest following the guidance of your state and local wildlife agencies.


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 or HPAI, you can call us at (307) 313-BIRD.

 

Soak feeders in a bleach solution with this collapsible sink!

Collapsible sink for cleaning bird feeders
 

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.

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.


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.


 

Want more tips on birds, feeding birds, identifying birds, wildlife safety, and more?? Join our site, subscribe to our Flocking YouTube, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and Twitter, and visit our Amazon Storefront.

Zach is showing off gear and encouraging visitors to check out his favorite gear on his Amazon Associate page.

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