Avian flu outbreak prompts call to take down bird feeders on Prince Edward Island


An outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), a virus that is deadly to wild birds, poultry, and in some cases, humans, was detected in two North American locations — South Carolina and Newfoundland and Labrador — in December 2021. This avian flu strain has since spread to about 20 states and several provinces, and now, a wildlife health official on Prince Edward Island, in eastern Canada, is suggesting that people remove bird feeders from their yards in hopes of slowing the spread.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reports that a Blue Jay in Nova Scotia is among the confirmed cases in Canada. It may be the first known species that frequents feeders to be found with the virus.

Megan Jones, regional director of Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative for the Atlantic region, told the CBC that taking feeders down can help.

“We are suggesting that people not do anything that causes birds to congregate,” she said. “If they congregate naturally, there’s nothing we can do about that, but why draw them together? That’s a risk that I don’t think is necessary right now.”

It’s not clear if the suggestion is limited to Prince Edward Island or if it applies to other provinces. BirdWatching has reached out to wildlife health agencies in Canada for clarification. And we have asked the U.S. National Wildlife Health Center if a similar request will be made of the American bird-feeding public.

We will update this story as we learn more.

Distribution of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5 and H5N1 in North America, 2021/2022. Updated March 14, 2022. Source: USGS National Wildlife Health Center

Meanwhile, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is keeping tabs on reports of avian flu in wild birds. As of a few days ago, it had more than 350 detections from the eastern and central U.S. Most of the species with the virus are ducks and geese — Mallard, Snow and Ross’s Goose, Green-winged Teal, Redhead, Gadwall, Canada Goose, Lesser Scaup, and American Black Duck, among others. Non-waterfowl in the list include Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Black Vulture, and Sanderling.

On February 28, the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center held a one-hour webinar about the current avian flu outbreak. You can watch a recording of it here.

Current detections of HPAI in the U.S. in wild birds, commercial flocks, and backyard flocks, are posted here. For Canadian data, you can find biweekly reports posted here.

More information about HPAI can be found on this USGS page.


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