Chicago, IL

Bird flu warning: Illinois residents advised to stop the use of bird feeders and baths

Jennifer Geer

Officials hope to limit the spread of avian flu among wild and domestic birds.

(CHICAGO) In upsetting news for backyard bird watchers and bird enthusiasts, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has issued a warning to all Illinois residents.

Stop using backyard bird feeders and birdbaths through the end of May. The reason for the warning? A "highly pathogenic avian influenza" (HPAI) has been found in the Midwest, including Will County.

The EA H5N1 strain

The EA H5N1 strain of the highly pathogenic avian flu (HPAI) is impacting wild and domestic birds this spring. "While HPAI has not been detected in songbird species (passerines), IDNR recommends the use of bird feeders and birdbaths cease through May 31," according to a press release from the IDNR.

It is sad news to those who enjoy watching the spring migration of Illinois bird species taking place in their backyards. But this year, a deadly strain of the bird flu makes feeding birds in your backyard deadly for the birds.

Although it may be unfortunate for bird enthusiasts, don't worry about birds finding plenty of food. The IDNR reminds us that there are many sources of food for songbirds in the spring.

Is the bird flu dangerous to humans?

It is a low risk to humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the "current risk to the general public from the H5N1 bird flu outbreak in wild birds and poultry to be low.

Update 4/30/22: The CDC has reported the first case of H5N1 flu in a human in the U.S. A man working on a poultry farm in Colorado was directly exposed to the virus. The man's only symptom was feeling fatigued for a few days. The CDC said the risk to humans remains low.

Where has the bird flu been found?

This strain of avian flu has been found in Illinois and in the Chicago region in waterfowl and waterbird species, including suburban Will county.

Recently, it is suspected to have caused the deaths of over 200 birds in the Chicago-area forest preserve of Baker's Lake.

Further recommendations from the IDNR:

  • Remove birdseed at the base of bird feeders to avoid birds gathering.
  • Avoid feeding wild birds near domestic flocks.
  • Clean and rinse bird feeders and bath with diluted bleach and put them away until the warning is over. Or clean them weekly if they can't be stored away from birds.
  • If you spot five or more dead birds in one area, contact the IDNR.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area. New articles published each weekday.

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