Latest on Avian Influenza A(H5) and A(H7)
by Carole Jorgensen
Local media sources have mentioned the continued spread of avian flu and implicated wild birds as major vectors in the state. Waterfowl, particularly dabbling ducks, are thought to be a reservoir of influenza A(H5) and A(H7). The March 2023 USDA update of avian influenza detections report three wild birds infected with bird flu in Flathead County: one Canada Goose, one Bald Eagle and one Red-tailed Hawk, and 114 detections in Montana composed mostly of raptors/scavengers and waterfowl, including skunks, foxes, grizzly bears, bobcats, and coyotes.
While it is highly likely that many mortalities in wild birds go undetected, the concern remains with domestic fowl. If you raise backyard poultry you should take steps to prevent migratory waterfowl and other wild birds from contact with domestic birds in your poultry houses and coops.
While songbirds seldom get bird flu it is prudent to keep your feeders clean by regularly disinfecting them with a 10 percent bleach solution (left on for a few minutes) and cleaning up under the feeder. Wash your hands before and after handling feeders. Should you find dead birds, leave them alone or pick them up with gloves, consider wearing a mask, and make sure your pets don’t pick them up. I’m trying to train the squirrels who rob seed from my feeder to wash their paws before and after they steal, but they don’t listen, making me pay more attention to feeder hygiene. But for now, don’t blame our eagles for the high price of eggs.