JAMESTOWN – The changing seasons has brought more birds back to the area, and with them comes a new wave of avian influenza. Local wildlife experts are now taking action to stop the spread.
Leigh Rovegno, Executive Director at the Audubon Community Nature Center says the avian flu was first detected in January, but with warming temperatures it could begin to spread faster.
“An Avian flu, it’s just like a human flu, it comes around every once in a while,” explains Rovegno. “Right now it’s affecting mostly poultry and then wild birds of prey. So it’s carried by a lot of waterfowl birds which are starting to return to the area right now. Which is why we were starting to get a little more concerned as we see the geese coming back and swans and ducks and all those guys that are very likely carriers.”
To decrease the spread, the Cornell Cooperative Extension is recommending stopping activities that cause birds to gather, including pausing all bird feeding and bath filling.
“It’s sort of an extra precaution, because when birds tend to gather, just like people, they can spread a virus more quickly. So for now we’re leaving them down. They have plenty of food to forage for in the wild, so we’re not worried. It’s really more for our own personal enjoyment to see them. They will be perfectly fine on their own for now, and we’re kinda keeping an eye on things as to when we’ll put them back up,” says Rovegno.
The Audubon Community Nature Center has also put up a goose fence along their pond to reduce the possibility of transmission, and have implemented specific protocols for staff and volunteers who work with their birds of prey.
Those who live near water are encouraged to join this pause, as well as those who have wild turkeys visiting or backyard poultry.
The disease has been identified in over 350 wild birds in 20 states, including New York. It does not affect humans; however, area conservation organizations have said if the virus continues to spread and mutate, that may change.
“We reach a lot of people, so we try to take advantage of that reach and really provide as much education as we can to the public, especially when it comes to something like this that people are nervous about and don’t really have a lot of information on. But we typically focus on those younger kids, so getting them outside. Reminding them that nature is safe, it’s not this terribly terrifying place, and getting them used to climbing around and being out in the woods.”
The conservation organizations also remind us to clean bird feeders regularly (more often during hot, wet weather) with a 1:10 bleach/water solution.
Concerns about dead or sick wild birds can be directed to the Region 9 Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) office at (716) 851-7010.