Don’t feed the birds this spring!

The University of Minnesota Raptor Center is asking people not to fill bird feeders or baths to help stop the spread of bird flu this spring.

In a Facebook post, Raptor Center executive director and veterinary epidemiologist Dr. Victoria Hall urged the public to do all they can to help prevent the gathering of songbirds.

Hall says the country is facing an unprecedented outbreak of avian influenza (AIHP) in wild birds.

While most research into the effects of bird flu has focused on waterfowl, shorebirds and seabirds, as these are the birds that most often survive the disease, the Raptor Center is concerned about the effect of the virus on raptors as they often die from the virus.

“During these unprecedented times, we recommend doing everything we can to try to help our wild bird populations. Because the science is unclear on the role of songbirds in this current H5N1 outbreak, one consideration is not to encourage birds to congregate at places like bird feeders or baths, these are places where things like viruses could easily be exchanged between individuals,” Hall wrote.

Hall stresses that the outbreak won’t last forever, but acting now will help end it as quickly as possible.

Businesses and nonprofits take action to curb the spread of bird flu

The Easter season is busy at Anoka-Ramsey Farm and Garden for chick and duck sales.

“This weekend is probably our biggest poultry weekend of the year,” said owner Tom Tidrick.

But in the midst of an outbreak of bird flu, they take safety seriously.

“Biosecurity is important to us, so we clean the tanks between chick arrivals and generally try to keep the floors clean,” Tidrick said.

The same is true at the Raptor Center in Saint Paul.

“We are doing everything we can to prevent people from accidentally bringing it into the centre,” said executive director Victoria Hall.

They have closed their doors to visitors and are ensuring that workers and volunteers do not stalk wild bird waste on their shoes.

According to Hall, this outbreak is very different from the one we saw in 2015.

“The same virus, a very different way of unfolding…in this outbreak we’re seeing an incredible amount of wildlife and it’s geographically across the country,” Hall said.

They test every bird brought to the Center with a swab – the same way humans are tested for COVID-19.

Over the past few weeks, 40% have tested positive for bird flu.

“Anything we can do to help stop some of this transmission or accidentally help this transmission will only help our birds this spring,” Hall said.

To curb the spread, the Raptor Center is now urging Minnesotans to dismantle their feeders and birdbaths for the next month.

Any artificial gathering of birds has the potential to spread the virus, which kills 90-100% of birds that catch it.

“Taking your bird feeder away just for a little while is like not going to the bar in the middle of a COVID flare-up,” Hall said.

Avian flu does not like heat, so the situation should improve as the weather gets warmer. For now, Hall thinks taking your bird feeder apart is a small step to keep things from getting worse.

“We need to do everything we can to possibly help our avian friends,” Hall said.

RELATED: Expect higher poultry and egg prices as bird flu wipes out flocks in Minnesota

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