Avian Flu Update
With so much talk of the current avian flu outbreak and conflicting advice on whether to take down your bird feeders, we wanted to provide some advice and important information. We know you look to us to be your backyard bird experts and take seriously the trust you put in us. We are bird lovers first and foremost and would never want to provide bad or misleading information that would negatively affect our feathered friends.
This is a significant outbreak of avian flu that we do need to take seriously. However, we currently see no reason to take down bird feeders with a few small exceptions. Neither the CDC, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, or the USDA recommend taking down bird feeders at this time. There’s a lot of good info below that we recommend reading, but feel free to skip to the summary at the end.
Avian Flu Facts
-The current strain of avian flu, H5N1, spreads between infected birds via saliva, mucous, and feces.
-It is extremely rare for bird flu to infect humans, and all reported cases have been among people who have significant contact with domestic poultry.
-H5N1 is currently affecting domestic poultry, waterfowl, raptors, and some shorebirds.
-Avian influenza does not affect all types of birds equally. For example, waterfowl often carry and transmit bird flu, but rarely get sick from the disease (even from HPAI strains). Raptors are much more sensitive to the disease than waterfowl. Domestic poultry are extremely susceptible to HPAI and spread the disease easily, leading to up to 100% mortality of affected flocks.
-Songbirds (the type of birds that visit our feeders) 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
-According to a separate study in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, “…although passerines and terrestrial wild birds may have a limited role in the epidemiology of IAV [avian influenza A viruses] when associated with infected domestic poultry or other aberrant hosts, there is no evidence supporting their involvement as natural reservoirs for IAV.”
-For these reasons, it is unlikely that bird feeders will contribute to an outbreak among songbirds.
So if songbirds are not at risk, then why is there talk of taking down bird feeders?
-The concern is that even if songbirds don’t get sick from this strain, they could pass it on to birds that do (domestic poultry via shared outdoor food sources that songbirds can access, or to raptors like hawks and eagles when they eat songbirds.)
-HOWEVER, USDA APHIS has a strong, multiyear surveillance program that routinely samples wild birds, including flocks of songbirds (and other species such as Rock Pigeons and Mourning Doves that are often around humans), for the presence of avian influenza. So far in 2022, they’ve detected the HPAI strain in 857 wild birds, with only 6 detections in songbirds, all American Crows in North Dakota.
That’s right, only 6 birds in the country that visit bird feeders have even tested positive for the virus, and they are all crows in a single state. So there is currently no reason to believe that songbirds can pass this strain on to more susceptible species.
This is an evolving situation that we will continue to monitor closely. If more songbirds start to test positive, we would revise our guidelines based on which birds were found to be carriers.
Even though songbirds have not been found to spread or carry the virus, it makes sense to take some easy precautions, like limiting places where songbirds come into contact with waterfowl and poultry.
What You Should Do
-Clean all bird feeders and birdbaths weekly with a solution of 10% bleach and 90% water. Rinse thoroughly so that no bleach residue is left behind. We clean feeders for $10 each and usually have them ready within 1-2 days.
-Stop intentionally feeding waterfowl (ducks, geese, etc.), wild turkeys, and pheasants. This means no throwing food onto the ground or using large ground feeders that these birds can access, unless you are in an area they don’t frequent. While waterfowl rarely get sick from this strain, they are known carries and can spread the disease to other birds like raptors who are more susceptible.
-If waterfowl, wild turkeys, or pheasants sometimes feed on the seed beneath your feeders, think about switching to one of our No Waste Blends (now 20% off) and add a Seed Tray to your feeders to minimize what falls to the ground.
-It is unusual for waterfowl to use birdbaths, but if you live in an area where they are abundant and have witnessed them use your birdbath before, consider taking it down.
-Wear disposable gloves and wash hands thoroughly after checking nest boxes. If checking waterfowl nests like Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers, change gloves between each nest and where a mask.
-Avoid handling sick or dead birds. If you find more than 5 dead birds, report it to the Illinois DNR. Report any sick or dead Eagles.
-If you raise any domestic birds:
1. Make sure their food and water sources are completely inaccessible to
2. Keep them indoors or otherwise physically separated from wild birds.
3. Take down your wild bird feeders and baths.
4. Wash your hands and change your clothes before tending to domestic birds or pet birds.
-Clean bird feeders and baths weekly with a 10% bleach 90% water solution and rinse thoroughly.
-Eliminate contact between domestic birds and songbirds and minimize contact between songbirds and waterfowl like ducks and geese (no ground feeding if waterfowl are in your area.)
-No other types of feeders need to be taken down
-Stay tuned for additional updates
Hummingbird, Oriole, and General Migration Update
The first hummingbirds, orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and indigo buntings have all been spotted! The bulk of their numbers are still south of here so most people likely won’t have their first sightings until at least this weekend. But they will continue to trickle in and everyday your odds of seeing them increase. Get ready to see these beautiful birds today. The cold weather means less natural food like bugs and berries, so that should drive them to the feeders even more. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity, get an Oriole Feeder with our special Jelly and one of our Hummingbird Feeders with our Nectar that lasts 5x longer, now all 15% OFF!