UPDATE: Wild Bird Feeding and Avian Flu
REDONDO BEACH, CA – On July 14, 2022, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) reported finding avian flu in two geese and a pelican in Northern California. According to CDFW, avian flu in songbirds, i.e. backyard birds, is rare. At this point in time, national wildlife and health experts say you may continue feeding the birds. Here are the facts as we know them today:
Avian influenza (or “avian flu”) is a type of naturally-occurring virus among wild aquatic birds worldwide such as ducks, geese,
gulls and shorebirds. Since Fall 2021, the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI H5N1) has been detected in, and known to sicken and kill, domesticated bird species including chickens, ducks and turkeys.
However, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology , “Songbirds are much less likely than waterfowl to contract avian
influenza and less likely to shed large amounts of virus, meaning they do not transmit the disease easily.” They also state,
“There is currently very low risk of an outbreak among wild songbirds, and no official recommendation to take down feeders
unless you also keep domestic poultry, according to the National Wildlife Disease Program.”
Additionally, 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,” and “removing backyard feeders is not something USDA specifically recommends to prevent avian influenza unless you
also take care of poultry.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently deems H5N1 to be of low human health risk. As with any bird or animal, wild or domestic, it is always prudent to take precautions after contact. Be careful around droppings or water used by birds and animals; wash your hands with soap and water after contact.
According to Bob Shanman, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Redondo Beach, “When feeding birds it is recommended to clean your bird feeders and baths regularly and keep the area under your feeder(s) clean. Summarizing the data known to date, there is very low risk of avian flu outbreak in song birds and no need to take down your bird feeders or baths,” Bob concluded.
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