Avian Flu Update

Editor’s note: We continue to monitor the situation and will update this post as we receive new information.

APRIL 28, 2022 from Birds & Blooms Magazine: Bird Flu: Should You Take Down Your Feeders? By Lori Vanover Updated: Apr. 28, 2022

Will avian influenza affect backyard birds?

Find out if you need to take down feeders, plus learn bird flu symptoms you should look for.

What is the Bird Flu?

Bird flu may sicken wild waterfowl as well as domestic birds

According to the University of Illinois Extension Office, avian influenza, or the bird flu, is an extremely infectious respiratory disease that affects all domestic poultry, including laying hens, broilers, and turkeys, as well as waterfowl and game birds. It can spread quickly within flocks causing severe disease and death. Currently 33 U.S. states have confirmed avian flu cases in wild birds.In the last outbreak of bird flu, more than 200 commercial flocks and 21 backyard flocks in the U.S. were affected, leading to the deaths of more than 50 million birds between 2014 and 2015.Ken Keffer, co-owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited Store in Bloomington, Indiana, says, “Avian flu isn’t new. Avian influenzas were first identified in Europe in the 1870s. Variants of the current highly pathogenic avian influenza strain (HPAI H5N1) first emerged in southern China in 1996. North America had outbreaks in 2014 and 2015. The recent strain was detected in North America last fall, and is different than previous H5N1 viruses according to the Centers for Disease Control.” Learn more about other common wild bird diseases.

Which Species Are Affected by Bird Flu

Avian influenza is affecting wild birds including ducks, shorebirds and raptors

In wild birds, waterfowl including ducks, geese, and swans, are the main group impacted. It can be fatal in these species, although often they carry and transmit the virus without showing symptoms. Other birds including raptors like hawks and eagles, as well as shorebirds and gulls have also tested positive for HPAI H5N1 during this outbreak. Research has shown songbirds are less likely to contract bird flu and are less likely to shed large amounts of the virus. A small number of corvid species (crows, jays, and magpies) have tested positive. Visible symptoms of bird flu include runny eyes, swelling, and lethargy. Poultry operations are especially feeling the effects of bird flu. When the disease is detected in domestic poultry, flocks are depopulated to prevent the disease from spreading and removed from the food system. Other area flocks are then monitored for the disease.

Is it Safe to Feed Wild Birds Right Now?

There is no official recommendation to take down feeders unless you also keep domestic poultry, according to the National Wildlife Disease Program. Ken says, “The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and United States Department of Agriculture have both stated that bird feeding is safe. Out of an abundance of caution, some agencies initially suggested taking feeders down, but these guidelines have been scaled back. Currently, I’m not aware of any restrictions in place on bird feeders.”

He further explains if you raise poultry and live in an area where avian influenza is being reported, you could consider removing bird feeders in the short term. “Past outbreaks of avian flu have generally waned by early summer,” he says.Joy O’Keefe, assistant professor and Illinois Extension wildlife specialist in the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, advises homeowners to plant native shrubs and wildflowers this spring for their backyard birds. “In the absence of feeders, birds should be able to find natural sources of food from sprouting native plants and emerging insects,” she says. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says hummingbird feeders and oriole feeders do not need to be removed. Check with your state wildlife agency for updated guidelines in your area.

APRIL 21, 2022 from the Wild Bird Feeding Institute

HPAI & Wild Birds – 2022 Updates

The Wild Bird Feeding Institute has been diligently monitoring the outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus [HPAI A(H5N1)] outbreak in the United States and Canada. The risk of transmission to humans is very low; there have been no reported human cases in the U.S. So far, there is no evidence that the disease is spread by bird feeders, but experts are advising hobbyists to air on the side of caution.

READ: Jenna McCullough, WBFI Partnered Researcher on What is bird flu and how does it spread?



So… should I take down my feeder?

WBFI has been closely monitoring the situation since January 2022 taking recommendations from the United States and Canadian governments, our partnered organizations, and conservation/wildlife agencies. Some are recommending the temporary removal of feeders, but does this apply to you? Here is what we advise based on the information we have so far, please note that this may change as the situation evolves, we will update as soon as possible and let you know when it is ok to put them back up if the following conditions below apply to you.

You should consider temporarily take down your feeder temporarily ONLY if:

  • You are taking care of backyard/domestic poultry or live near a commercial poultry site.
    • The United States Department of Agriculture reports that “Removing backyard feeders is not something the USDA specifically recommends preventing avian influenza unless you also take care of poultry.”
    • From the Government of Canada website, regarding “Feeding wild birds in your backyard: “The use of bird feeders is still safe but they should be removed from areas that are open to poultry and other domestic animals.”
    • WBFI recommends looking at the CDC’s map of commercial outbreaks to consider whether feeders in the area should be taken down temporarily due to outbreaks and to take down if there is backyard poultry in the same area as feeders
    • Unsure? Contact your local or state wildlife department to see if taking their feeder down is their recommendation based on HPAI/migration activity in your area.
  • Your local/state wildlife agency recommends removing it because you live in an area with many HPAI-positive wild bird cases recorded.
    • To date, WBFI has not heard from any state wildlife agencies that are recommending this at this time unless you are working with poultry.
    • See national trackers below for the most recent stats on outbreaks:
  • As an additional cautionary measure – the temporary removal of feeders may be advised if you have seen species of wild birds that have been impacted most by HPAI: raptors, waterfowl, shorebirds, scavenger birds, or game birds visiting near the feeders frequently.


APRIL 20, 2022: Avian Influenza Outbreak: Should You Take Down Your Bird Feeders (The Cornell Lab, All About Birds)

Many people are concerned about the 2022 outbreak of avian influenza, or bird flu, that is affecting domestic poultry, waterfowl, raptors, and some shorebirds in the U.S. and Canada. Because the current strain (H5N1) causes heavy losses to poultry, it is referred to as highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI. Note that transmission of avian influenza from birds to humans is very rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

There has been confusion about whether people should take down their feeders to stop the spread of this disease among wild birds. We checked with Dr. Julianna Lenoch, who directs the USDA APHIS National Wildlife Disease Program, and we’ve compiled the following summaries of key points regarding HPAI, especially among songbirds and other feeder visitors.

Low Risk Of Avian Flu To Songbirds

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. We will update this page as the situation develops.

How Do We Know Songbirds Are At Low Risk?

  • 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 763 wild birds, with only one detection in a songbird, an American Crow in North Dakota. Latest info about the outbreak.
  • 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 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. (See Shriner and Root 2020 for a detailed review in the journal Viruses.)
  • 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.” (Slusher et al. 2014)
  • For these reasons, it is unlikely that bird feeders will contribute to an outbreak among songbirds.

If Songbirds Are At Low Risk, Why Are People Who Keep Poultry Advised To Take Down Their Bird Feeders?

  • The main concern with songbirds is the chance that a rare individual might transmit an infection to poultry. This is a concern because poultry are so much more vulnerable than songbirds to HPAI.
  • The key intervention is to keep songbirds away from poultry; it’s less important to keep songbirds away from each other.
  • If you have a backyard poultry flock, these are the most important steps to take:
    (click for full info on these biosecurity measures from USDA APHIS)

  • As a secondary measure, USDA APHIS recommends for poultry owners to take down wild bird feeders or keep them well away from their captive flock

If You Keep Nest Boxes:

Avian influenza is only rarely transmitted to humans, according to the USDA, but nevertheless our NestWatch project always advises good hygiene and highly recommends that people wear disposable gloves and/or wash their hands thoroughly after checking nest boxes. Most birds that use nest boxes are songbirds, which are at low risk for contracting or transmitting avian influenza. If you monitor waterfowl nests (e.g., Wood Duck, Common Merganser, Canada Goose), we suggest you wear gloves, change or wash gloves between nest boxes, wear a mask when cleaning out nest boxes, and change clothes and footwear before visiting any domestic poultry.

If You Are A Wildlife Rehabilitator:

Wildlife rehabilitators should take precautions when accepting sick birds so that they don’t inadvertently introduce HPAI to the rest of their patients. Here’s further guidance for rehabbers, from USDA APHIS. Rehabbers in New York State are also encouraged to contact the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab for more information.

What To Do If You Find A Sick Or Dead Bird:

Avoid handling sick or dead birds. Instead, call your state wildlife health agency; they can determine cause of death and send the bird to the appropriate lab for testing. Additionally, keep pets (including pet birds) away from sick or dead wild birds.

Additional Resources:

Wild Bird Species With HPAI Detections In 2022

Updated April 20, 2022. Total number of detections in wild birds: 763. See 2022 Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Wild Birds for latest detections.

American Black Duck
American Crow
American White Pelican
American Wigeon
Bald Eagle
Black Vulture
Blue-winged Teal
Brown Pelican
Canada Goose
Cooper’s Hawk
Great Blue Heron
Great Horned Owl
Green-winged Teal
Herring Gull
Hooded Merganser
Lesser Scaup
Mute Swan
Northern Pintail
Northern Shoveler
Pheasant sp.
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Ross’s Goose
Ruddy Duck
Snow Goose
Snowy Owl
Trumpeter Swan
Tundra Swan
Turkey Vulture
Wood Duck

APRIL 15, 2022: Minnetonka Store Manager Carol Chenault on CBS LOCAL

MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) – Some wildlife experts are encouraging people to take down their bird feeders this spring. It’s a precautionary measure due to the fast-spreading bird flu. But the science is unclear when it comes to the impact of the virus on songbirds.

A post by Dr. Victoria Hall, executive director of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, encouraged people to temporarily take feeders and bird baths down because of the highly transmissible avian influenza.

“During these unprecedented times, we recommend doing anything that we can to try and help our wild bird populations. Because the science is unclear on the role of songbirds in this current H5N1 outbreak, one consideration is to not encourage birds to gather together at places such as bird feeders or bird baths. These are places where things like viruses could easily be exchanged between individuals,” Dr. Hall wrote.

The post generated discussions amid bird lovers about the safety of bird feeders and bird baths.

Minnetonka resident Steve Laursen has been feeding birds for 30 years.

“We like the animals, the birds are flying around, it’s fun having them in the yard. We sit on the deck and watch these birds come and eat, and they are hungry,” Laursen said.

He picked up feed Friday from All Seasons Wild Bird Store in Minnetonka where they said bird feeders are generally safe for songbirds, unless you have other species like poultry or waterfowl frequently the area.

“The issue is you don’t want birds who are ill congregating together and spreading it, but at this point it hasn’t been an issue for song birds,” General Manager Carol Chenault said.

But unlike the Bird Flu outbreak in 2015, this year’s outbreak has hit the wild bird population hard. At the raptor center, 40% of birds admitted daily test positive including bald eagles and great horned owls.

“People who feed birds are generous and caring by nature so we all want to do the right thing,” Chenault said.

Minnesota DNR said they don’t have a record of songbirds being affected by the current influenza strain. They encourage people to clean their feeders during the spring to protect birds against other inflections such as salmonella.

APRIL 15, 2022: From Wild Bird Feeding Institute (WBFI)

WBFI works with experts and specialists globally to stay committed to keeping our members informed about issues that may affect the hobby of bird feeding. The health and safety of wildlife are our primary concern, and we have been closely monitoring the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus [HPAI A(H5N1)] outbreak in the United States and Canada.   

News outlets have picked up the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota’s facebook post encouraging hobbyists to take feeders down. Dr. Victoria Hall, who created the statement. has agreed to meet with us this afternoon to ensure we are providing accurate information before we issue an updated press release.  

Here is what we know so far: 

  • To date, the only known “wild birds” reported to have been infected with H5N1 have been waterfowl, water birds, shorebirds, and birds of prey that consume infected birds.  
    • WBFI encourages any bird feeding hobbyists that have seen these types of wild birds frequenting their feeders to remove them temporarily. 
  • The United States Department of Agriculture reports that “Removing backyard feeders is not something the USDA specifically recommends preventing avian influenza unless you also take care of poultry.”  
  • Cleaning your feeders properly can help stop the spread of diseases. Please visit https://www.wbfi.org/feedsmart/ for resources and more information. 

WBFI is actively researching and monitoring the Avian Influenza issue with leading experts from around the world. We will stay on top of the situation, and we pledge to keep you informed of any developments of concern. 

APRIL 1, 2022

Avian Flu Not Impacting Feeder Birds

The Wild Bird Feeding Institute has been diligently monitoring the outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus [HPAI A(H5N1)] outbreak in the United States and Canada. To date, there have been no recorded cases in this outbreak of any generic feeder birds contracting the Avian Influenza Virus, and the only wild birds reported to have been infected have been waterfowl, water birds, shorebirds, and birds of prey that consume infected birds.

WBFI encourages any bird feeding hobbyists that have waterfowl frequenting their bird feeders, or poultry nearby, to remove feeders temporarily. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that “Removing backyard feeders is NOT something the USDA specifically recommends preventing avian influenza unless you also take care of poultry.”

The CDC reports a “low threat” for the risk of humans contracting Avian Flu. “Transmission from wild birds that visit backyard feeders to the humans that feed them are extremely low,” WBFI’s partnered researcher Jenna McCollough stated in her February Avian Flu Report, “Regardless of disease outbreaks, backyard bird feeding enthusiasts should always wash their hands after coming in contact with their bird feeders and clean surfaces wild birds touch (feeders, baths, preferred perches) regularly.” The Wild Bird Feeding Institute always encourages and supports regular care of your feeders for the health and safety of birds, especially during migration season. For helpful tips and resources on how to care for your feeder visit wbfi.org/feedsmart.