LANSING, Mich. (WJMN) – While Michigan continues to respond to detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), officials with the Michigan DNR are releasing recommendations on the best approach to keep yourself, poultry flocks, and wild bird populations safe. The DNR says the issue is increasing in importance as passerines, including many songbird species, are making their spring migration back to Michigan and seeking out food sources like backyard bird feeders.

The DNR says that while all birds are susceptible to HPAI, domestic birds and some wild birds, like waterfowl, raptors and scavengers, are highly susceptible and have been affected more than others by HPAI.

“Current research suggests songbirds are less susceptible to highly pathogenic avian influenza and are unlikely to play a significant role in spreading the virus,” said Megan Moriarty, state wildlife veterinarian with the DNR. “However, much remains unknown, and surveillance and testing for HPAI in this group of birds is less common, resulting in a knowledge gap.”

The DNR says an easy way to help reduce the potential spread of HPAI is to remove outdoor bird feeders. While the DNR says there isn’t yet any widespread recommendation from state agencies to do so, temporary removal of the feeders could be helpful. The advice is especially relevant for people who have highly susceptible species like those listed above living near them, or for those who observe high-risk species like blue jays, crows, or ravens hanging around their backyard bird feeders.

According to the department, temporary removal of bird feeders and baths may only last for the next couple of months, or until the rate of HPAI spread in wild and domestic birds decreases.

“If you’re concerned about this virus and want to act from a place of abundant caution, removing your bird feeders for now makes sense, but it isn’t yet a critical step,” Moriarty said. “With warmer springtime weather on the way, too, birds will have more natural food sources readily available to them, so chances are many people will be taking down feeders in a few weeks anyway.”

If you choose to continue using a bird feeder, the DNR recommends keeping the following steps in mind:

  • Thoroughly clean bird feeders with a diluted bleach solution (and rinse well) once per week. Regularly cleaning helps protect birds against other infections, including salmonella.
  • Clean up birdseed that has fallen below the feeders to discourage large numbers of birds and other wildlife from congregating in a concentrated area.
  • Don’t feed wild birds, especially waterfowl, near domestic flocks.

If you notice what appears to be unusual or unexplained deaths among wild bird populations, you are asked to report the information either by:

  • Using the DNR’s Eyes in the Field app. Choose the “diseased wildlife” reporting option.
  • Calling the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030.