Important info for feeding the backyard birds during HPAI.
Responsible Back Yard Birding in light of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) identified in birds migrating this spring up the Atlantic (Eastern Canada) and Mississippi corridor (thats us!).
Update May 12 2022 - It appears that birds from the Corvid family (ravens, crows, magpies and blue jays) are vulnerable to the Avian Flu. Other passerines (song birds).
Birds in order of vulnerablilty. (This list could be updated as data comes in - if anyone is wiser to this list please let me know!)
1. Domestic poultry - no immunity. This flu has been devastating to the farming community.
2. Eagles/Hawks - little to no immunity
3. Corvids (ravens, crows, magpies and blue jays) - little to no immunity
3. Waterfowl - little to some immunity. Are carriers to the hawks and eagles who eat them.
4. Songbirds - little to no risk
5. Hummingbirds & Orioles - little to no risk
Update April 5 2022
UPDATE MARCH 29 2022 - The authorities have now recognized that this is primarily an Atlantic corridor issue and the Ontario (Mississippi Corridor) remains safe to feed the birds as usual.
The Birdhouse Nature Store and its staff are aware of incoming migration of songbirds that may be carrying HPAI. The following information is here for your convenience:
Regardless of the avian flu, we always recommend cleaning your feeders on a regular schedule. Avian flu is only one of the possible bacteria/virus that can be spread at feeders so keeping your feeders clean is an important part of being a backyard birder. This current HPAI just makes this all the more important.
Avian flu does not impact all bird species the same way. It can cause serious illness and death in domestic poultry stock who do not have any natural immunity to Avian Flu. This can be devastating to poultry farmers. A duck farmer in Quebec had 3 properties infected out of 13. 200,000 birds (including all their breeding stock) and 400,000 eggs were euthanized. It is not however, currently considered a disease threat to wild song birds. Hawks and eagles that eat infected wildlife (like waterfowl) are impacted and euthanized when found. They often exhibit neurological impacts and won't survive.
Feeding wild birds in your backyard
To minimize the risk of transmission of HPAI, do not handle or feed any wild bird by hand. Feeding encourages wild birds to congregate around food sources and can increase the probability of transmission among wild birds, both within and among species.
The use of bird feeders is still safe but they should be removed from areas that are open to poultry and other domestic animals. If you care for poultry, prevent contact between wild birds and poultry by removing exterior/outdoor sources of food, water and shelter that attract wild birds.
Backyard bird feeders and baths should be cleaned regularly using a weak solution of domestic bleach (10% sodium hypochlorite). Ensure they are well rinsed and dried before re-use.
With this information The Birdhouse Nature Store recommends the following:
1. If you find a sick or dead bird, remove all feeders immediately for 3 weeks. Clean and sanitize prior to putting back out. Use gloves or shovel to dispose of bird by burying if possible. Into a garbage bag and out with regular garbage if not possible. Do not use bare hands if possible and wash hands thoroughly after.
Reporting sick or dead birds
Report sick or dead birds to:
- Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative information line 1-800-567-2033 or by using their online reporting tool.
- In Newfoundland and Labrador, to the Wildlife Emergency Number at (709) 685-7273.
- In Prince Edward Island, to the Forests, Fish and Wildlife Division at (902) 368-4683.
- In Nova Scotia, to the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables at 1-800-565-2224.
- In New Brunswick, to the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development at 1-833-301-0334.
- In Québec, to the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs at 1-877-346-6763.
- In Ontario, to the Ontario regional centre of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at (866) 673-4781
- In Manitoba, to the Manitoba Natural Resources and Northern Development 24 hours at 1-800-782-0076.
- In Saskatchewan, to the Ministry of Environment Inquiry Centre at 1-800-567-4224.
- In Alberta, to the Alberta Environment and Parks Office at 310-0000.
- In British Columbia, to the Forest, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development at (250) 751-3234
2. Hot water and a “natural” soap washing should occur at minimum, weekly to bi-weekly through this time and a soak in water with 10% bleach solution as mentioned above. Hummingbird and oriole feeders should be washed every 2-3 days and refilled with fresh nectar solution/jelly/oranges. This is especially important during high heat times. It has been noted that orioles and hummingbirds may be less impacted by the disease as they tend to group feed less often than other birds. This should not deter regular cleaning to deter other pathogens as well as avian flu.
3. We continue to recommend using a feeding system that prevents Starlings from eating. Starlings are an invasive bully bird, and during this time it will be all the more important to keep them away from feeders. Despite being a European bird, they've done exceedingly well in North America. Our native songbirds will need all the leg up they can get during this time, and access to food and habitat needs to be minimized for the Starlings so our songbirds have as much chance to excel as possible.
a) Caged feeders will prevent the starlings from accessing food.
b) Changing feed to straight safflower and straight nyjer, and straight striped sunflower will also help deter starlings from uncaged feeders. Most starlings do not eat black oil sunflower in the shell, but we have been hearing from customers that some seem to be adapting to cracking these open. Do not mix the stripe, nyjer or safflower with black oil or other seeds. Safflower, nyjer and striped sunflower do not repel Starlings, it deters them as they don't like or can't access those seeds. Adding seeds they like will only draw them to the feeders.
4. The ground beneath feeders should be maintained. Empty shells should be cleaned up and raked regularly, and the area hosed down on occasion on days with no rain.
As for the Highly pathogenic Avian Flu:
The following links and information was copied from the Facebook Page FeederWatch Canada and are posted for transparency and your own convenient research:
Government of Canada website on wild birds and HPAI -
HPAI Update for Wild Birds in your Region –
You can receive automatic updates via email by sending a request to [email protected]
Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) – Reporting Website and Regional Contacts
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) - Avian influenza Information and Contact Information
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) – Wild birds and avian influenza – Handling guidelines
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – Wild bird highly pathogenic avian influenza surveillance https://www.fao.org/3/a0960e/a0960e.pdf
Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) - Shipping and Handling Instructions
The US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Updates on HPAI in wild birds.