Remove your backyard bird-feeders, BC SPCA urges, due to avian flu

As more cases of avian flu are reported in B.C., those who have backyard bird-feeders are urged to temporarily take them down due to the highly infections virus.

The BC SPCA says along with the feeders, birdbaths should also be emptied, warning the sites can increase the risk of transmission.

“Fallen seed is also an especially dangerous source of disease – when birds feed from the ground, they are also exposed to droppings that accumulate below a feeder,” the SPCA said Thursday.

“So what we are trying to avoid is creating a situation where bird-feeders are attracting large numbers of birds, large congregations of birds, which really just makes a fantastic opportunity for the disease to spread. So, as a proactive and precautionary approach, we are advising to temporarily remove bird-feeders and birdbaths to help curb the spread of this disease,” Andrea Wallace, the manager for animal welfare, said.

Wallace says as birds are migrating right now, residents should be prepared to keep feeders down for a few months, and the BC SPCA will provide an update.

While hummingbird feeders pose the lowest risk, she says it’s important to remember that all bird feeders attract wildlife “which is a prime way for the disease to spread.

Overall, the BC SPCA doesn’t recommend feeding wildlife, especially during the warmer months as there are abundant natural food sources available. Read more about wildlife feeding here

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In addition, everyone should be on the lookout for signs of sick birds and call the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1-800-567-2033 if they see symptoms.

Birds may appear lethargic, unusually “fluffed up”, have nasal discharge, or have excessively watery eyes or swelling of the head and eyelids, the SPCA said.

As of Thursday, there have been four farms in the province with confirmed cases of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which is believed to have been spread by migrating wild birds.

Wild birds, including two eagles, have also been found dead as a result of the virus in Vanderhoof, Lac la Hache, Bowen Island, Delta, and Vancouver.

Chickens are shown at an egg-laying chicken farm in Amritsar, India on April 17, 2018. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says bird flu has been found in Alberta poultry flocks and there are new cases in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Aleksandra Sagan

As of April 15, all chicken, turkey, duck, and geese producers with 100 or more birds must maintain indoor operations only, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

In addition, those with backyard farms are warned to reduce contact with wild birds. While the disease can also spread to pet birds, there are no reports of cases at the moment.

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