Avian flu: Some experts say don’t use bird feeders this winter



Bird experts in Atlantic Canada are break up on whether or not placing out yard bird feeders over the winter is innocent or probably lethal to birds given the danger of avian flu.

Bob Bancroft, the president of Nature Nova Scotia, stated in an interview this week that he understands the love many Atlantic Canadians have for birds, however he says with the intention to shield them from probably deadly illnesses, feeders shouldn’t be used.

“I really feel strongly that if you happen to’re actually fascinated about the welfare of the birds, there’s a large downside with feeding them within the winter,” Bancroft stated, noting that salmonella, trichinosis and avian influenza can unfold the place birds congregate to eat.

The H5N1 avian flu first appeared in Newfoundland final December, when it was confirmed at a farm within the St. John’s space. Officials stated on the time it was the primary detection of the virus in Canada since 2015. It has since been present in wild birds and on dozens of poultry farms throughout the nation, though the Canadian Food Inspection Agency presently lists no services in Atlantic Canada as contaminated.

The Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador governments have all issued statements over the previous yr advising residents to keep away from feeding birds. Bancroft stated the provinces have been proper to supply this recommendation, and that New Brunswickers ought to keep away from feeders as nicely as a result of the danger of transmission exists throughout the area.

Elizabeth Walsh, a regional biologist with Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources, stated in an interview Thursday that the province continues to advise in opposition to the use of bird feeders. Walsh stated taking down bird feeders is a manner for residents to assist Nova Scotia’s efforts in “attempting to do every part in our energy to forestall additional unfold” of the extremely pathogenic H5N1 pressure of avian influenza

In Nova Scotia, there have been greater than 3,700 useless or sick birds reported to the province this yr, and there have been 23 confirmed circumstances of H5N1 avian influenza, Walsh stated. The biologist stated she would not understand how most of the sick or useless birds have been examined for avian flu — however she famous that analysis take time because it requires a PCR take a look at adopted by affirmation testing at a laboratory in Winnipeg.

Walsh stated the 23 confirmed avian flu circumstances in Nova Scotia are principally in seabirds, however they’ve additionally been recognized in blue jays, crows and pigeons.

Ian Jones, a biology professor with Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L., who focuses on bird conservation, disagrees that bird feeders pose a big danger of avian flu transmission in Atlantic Canada. He stated that as a result of avian flu largely impacts waterfowl and poultry, most yard bird feeders are at a particularly low danger of spreading the illness.

“How are a few dark-eyed juncos and chickadees coming to a bird feeder one way or the other going to be an issue for extremely pathogenic avian influenza? And the reply is, scientifically, it isn’t,” Jones stated in an interview.

“Government’s suggestion to take down bird feeders is scientifically ludicrous,” he stated.

Jones stated landfills are a a lot larger danger to avian illness in comparison with yard feeders, and if provinces are involved about wild bird well being they need to guarantee landfills are coated and secured.

“Landfills with uncovered rubbish, it is like a large bird feeder which, I consider, is in impact a large avian flu super-spreader,” he stated. Jones stated open landfills appeal to starlings, crows, gulls and different scavenging birds that may simply transmit illnesses.

Vanessa Roy-MacDougall, the chief director of Nature New Brunswick, stated that so long as individuals take excellent care of their feeders with common cleansing and monitoring, feeders are OK to use within the winter. Feeders needs to be scrubbed weekly with a vinegar and bleach resolution, she stated.

“The factor to do is preserve it clear and regulate the birds in case there’s some form of bizarre behaviour,” Roy-MacDougall stated Wednesday.

If a bird means that you can strategy it or is performing lethargic, that could possibly be an indication of avian influenza and would imply the feeder needs to be eliminated and the sick bird needs to be reported to the province.

Fiep de Bie, a Prince Edward Island-based wildlife technician with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, discourages the use of yard bird feeders, noting that any danger to birds’ well being is value avoiding.

“Avian influenza will not be a giant menace at bird feeders, however anywhere the place birds are congregating there’s a danger of illness unfold,” she stated in an interview.

Bancroft means that as a substitute of feeders, bird lovers ought to work on creating an excellent pure atmosphere for birds. He stated one of the best ways to do this is by planting any berry or fruit-bearing timber or bushes.

“I planted one excessive bush cranberry, and birds are in every single place right here,” Bancroft stated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Nov. 5, 2022.

This story was produced with the monetary help of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.


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