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IDNR urges Illinois residents to halt use of bird feeders and baths due to Avian Flu

Illinois residents are being advised to halt the use of bird feeders and bird baths due to a “highly pathogenic” strain of avian influenza that has been detected in areas of the state, including Will County, and elsewhere in the Midwest.

The EA H5N1 strain of the highly pathogenic avian flu (HPAI) is currently impacting some wild and domestic bird species, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which issued the advisory Thursday, April 21. 

“While HPAI has not been detected in songbird species (passerines), IDNR recommends the use of bird feeders and bird baths cease through May 31, or until HPAI infections in the Midwest subside, especially those that waterfowl may visit. During spring, wild birds will have ample food sources while bird feeders are removed,” according to a press release from the agency.

Bob Bryerton, a Forest Preserve District program coordinator, said IDNR is being proactive on this issue.

“It seems the IDNR wants to try and limit the spread of the avian flu as much as possible,” Bryerton said. “We know birds are migrating now, and they could be transporting the virus as they move around. Even though songbirds don’t seem to be major carriers of the virus, I think it is probably best to be cautious and not encourage birds to congregate in one area.”

Bryerton added that with flowers blooming and insects emerging, birds should have ample food supplies and do not need the feeders. 

“It is a bit sad, though, as I really enjoy seeing the birds at the feeder areas at Plum Creek Nature Center,” he added. “We’re hoping we will be able to put feeders up again by May 31. That will also give IDNR and other agencies time to see how and where the virus will be spreading and if it will be waning with the warmer weather.”

While IDNR did not mention hummingbird or oriole feeders specifically in its advisory, the agency said bird feeders should come down. To be on the safe side, all bird feeders at Forest Preserve visitor centers will come down to comply with the recommendation, Bryerton said.

Further IDNR avian flu recommendations include the following:

* Clean and rinse bird feeders and baths with a diluted bleach solution (nine parts water to one part bleach) and put away or clean weekly if they can’t be moved away from birds.

* Remove any bird seed at the base of bird feeders to discourage large gatherings of birds or other wildlife.

* Avoid feeding wild birds in close proximity to domestic flocks.

If five or more deceased wild birds are observed in one location, an IDNR district wildlife biologist should be contacted. Contact information for district wildlife biologists can be found on the IDNR website. USDA Wildlife Services also may be contacted at 866-487-3297.

In addition, IDNR requests all occurrences of deceased or sick bald eagles be reported to the agency.

HPAI was first detected in wild geese in Illinois on March 10. 

“Since then, 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,” the IDNR release stated. 

The avian flu has been detected in waterfowl and waterbird species; raptors, including bald eagles; and domestic poultry flocks.

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’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website or the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Avian Influenza webpage.

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