Official WBU Response to Avian Flu
Updated: April 21, 2023
You may have heard about avian influenza (or “bird flu”) and the development of this disease in North America. At this point in time, while some sources have recommended taking down bird feeders and bird baths, other wildlife and health experts say you may continue feeding the birds. Here are the facts as we know them today.
Since Fall of 2021, a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI H5N1) has been detected in numerous outbreaks in North America. It is a naturally-occurring virus especially prevalent among wild aquatic birds such as ducks, geese and shorebirds and has been shown to affect commercial and backyard poultry with high mortality.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created a webpage that collects current Avian Flu research and answers commonly asked questions about bird feeding and avian flu.
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.”
The US Department of Agriculture further states, “HPAI viruses and the illness they cause are not commonly found in wild birds…removing backyard feeders is not something USDA specifically recommends to prevent avian influenza unless you also take care of poultry.” Also, the Government of Canada affirms, “The use of bird feeders is unlikely to spread highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, and the risk of an outbreak in wild bird species that frequent feeders is considered low. However, feeders should be removed from areas that are open to poultry and other domestic animals. There have been no human cases of avian influenza resulting from exposure to wild birds in North America.”
In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently deems H5N1 to be of low human health risk.
To practice the hobby of bird feeding safely and to ensure the birds’ overall health, it is always recommended you clean your bird feeders regularly with a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water.