The State Department of Natural Resources is elevating the concern over the H5N1 strain of avian influenza circulating among raptors and wild birds, including the revered Bald Eagle.

So while we humans can self-isolate and keep our distance during a pandemic or bad flu season, our feathered friends don't have it so easy. 

Millions of chickens on commercial poultry farms have been sickened. They are dying from a highly virulent strain of avian flu. But just as alarming is that some of the nation's most stunning wild birds, raptors, and birds of prey have also fallen to the virus. Especially troubling is the reported loss of three dozen American Bald Eagles. 

Waterfowl are also a natural host for the avian flu, so when the eagles hunt and feast on their prey, the bird may be picking up the disease from the fallen fowl. 

Bald Eagle in Northern Michigan
Photo Credit: Kimberly LaForest / Getty

Although the American Bald Eagle was removed from the endangered species list in 2007, the majestic animal remains vulnerable to environmental and human impacts. 

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources urges residents to take down bird feeders and birdbaths through the end of May to help combat the spread of the virus. Especially those that waterfowl may visit.

Suppose residents observed five or more deceased birds in one location. In that case, it is recommended to contact a wildlife biologist with the department. That can be done through the department's website.

Iowa and Wisconsin are not immune to the outbreak, with dozens of commercial turkey farms impacted and millions of birds stricken.

Additional recommendations include: 

  • Clean and rinse bird feeders with a diluted bleach solution (nine parts water to one part bleach), and put the feeders away until recommendations change.
  •  Remove birdseed at the base of feeders to discourage gatherings of birds.
  • Remove or cover your birdbath until further notice.

The risk to humans remains minimal, but it's wise to keep an eye out for fallen birds and report them to the appropriate agency. 

Link: Iowa DNR

Link: Wisconsin DNR 

Link: Illinois DNR

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