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Announcements: IDNR Issues Updated Recommendations Regarding Wild Birds and Avian Influenza

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has issued updated recommendations to the public regarding wild birds and the EA H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) currently impacting some wild and domestic bird species.

The IDNR first announced HPAI was detected in wild Canada geese in Illinois on March 10, 2022 in a joint notice with the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA). Since that time, wild bird mortality from HPAI has been confirmed in Champaign, Fulton, Sangamon, and Will counties with a more recent mortality event of more than 200 birds in Cook County suspected to be caused from HPAI. Wild birds impacted include waterfowl and waterbird species, as well as some raptors, including bald eagles. Detections in domestic poultry flocks have also occurred. For more information on the status of HPAI in wild birds and domestic bird flocks in Illinois and other states, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) website and IDOA, HPAI website.

While HPAI has not been detected in songbird species (passerines), the IDNR recommends the use of bird feeders and bird baths cease through May 31, or until HPAI infections in the Midwest subside, especially those in which waterfowl may visit. During spring, wild birds will have ample food sources while bird feeders are removed. There is no evidence that hummingbird or oriole feeders serve as a source of HPAI transmission. Until then, our recommendation is focused on feeders which limit the potential interaction and disease spread between songbirds and waterfowl. Nectar/hummingbird feeders likely exclude these interactions and are not currently a concern. 

In addition, the IDNR recommends:

  1. Clean and rinse bird feeders and baths with a diluted bleach solution (9 parts water to 1 part bleach) and put away, or clean weekly if they can’t be moved away from birds.
  2. Remove any bird seed at the base of bird feeders to discourage large gatherings of birds or other wildlife, and
  3. Avoid feeding wild birds in close proximity to domestic flocks.

Updated clarifications: It is unlikely that hummingbird and oriole feeders will contribute to the spread of HPAI given they are more species specific, and it should be okay to leave them up. We have made a blanket recommendation because it is impossible to address every possible exception. The greatest risk of HPAI transmission is seed/grain feeders and bird baths where waterfowl and songbirds may interact, or those in the vicinity of poultry operations or backyard flocks. If one chooses to leave their bird feeders/baths up, we recommend following the guidance of weekly cleaning with a solution of 9 parts water and 1 part bleach, then thoroughly rinsing.

The IDNR requests all occurrences of deceased or sick bald eagles be reported to the agency. Also, if five or more deceased wild birds are observed in one location, please contact the IDNR Wildlife Division at 217-785-2614, DNR.Wildliferecep@illinois.gov or USDA Wildlife Services at 1-866-487-3297. When disposing of any deceased wild birds, rubber gloves and a mask should be worn, and the carcass double-bagged in sealed plastic bags. The bags can be buried away from scavengers or placed in the garbage if approved by your waste service provider.  Anyone handling deceased birds should thoroughly wash their hands and any other clothes or tools with soap and water following disposal.

With spring turkey season underway, the IDNR notes that wild turkeys are less likely to contract HPAI given their behavior and the habitats they occupy. However, turkey hunters can protect themselves by thoroughly cooking game meat to an internal temperature of 165 °F and implementing other guidance found here: Hunters-Protect Your Poultry and Pet Birds from Avian Influenza (usda.gov).

IDNR Issues Updated Recommendations Regarding Wild Birds and Avian Influenza
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