Saving wildlife in the Northwoods: What is bird flu and what kind of bird does it get? – Park Rapids Enterprise

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a highly contagious type of influenza virus.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service lists chickens, turkeys, captive pheasants, quails, waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans)—domestic and wild—and greads (ravens, birds, and crows) and great blue herons as the species most susceptible to the virus.

The latest data shows that wild birds in 31 states have tested positive for the HPAI virus so far this season.

The University of Minnesota Raptor Center reported 16 large horned owls, 13 bald eagles, 7 red-tailed hawks, and one owl that tested positive for the virus.

The USDA reports that 2 ducks in Anoka County and 1 large owl in Houston County have tested positive for the virus.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Animal Health collaborate to collect and share information on highly pathogenic avian influenza infections and wild birds in the state.


If you notice a bird that is injured or appears sick, do not touch it. Contact a licensed repairer or DNR for guidance.

Contribute / Julie Dickey

We get many calls and questions about what to do with sick, injured and dead birds.

The DNR is mandated to receive and process reports of sick and dead wild birds, if conditions or symptoms are consistent with highly virulent avian influenza.

Of particular concern are five or more deaths in the same region and time frame.

Some symptoms of highly virulent bird flu are birds that cannot fly, are lethargic, do not eat, or are unable to raise their heads, swim or walk in circles.

Birds infected with the virus may not show any symptoms.

Dead birds, especially birds of prey and waterfowl without obvious explanation or signs of infection, may be a concern. Birds that meet the criteria for testing will be sent to the National Wildlife Health Center or to a diagnostic lab in Minnesota.

Updated information on confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza can be found on this USGS website:


What this means for wildlife rehabilitation: This virus has caused huge difficulties for the wildlife qualification.

The Minnesota Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and many licensed rehab centers have made the difficult decision to suspend the intake of any sensitive and sensitive species. Centers simply cannot risk infecting other patients at the facility.

The Raptor Center has taken precautions, including redesigning the center to allow quarantine areas and safe separation of birds.

Birds entering the center should be tested immediately. The bird must then be quarantined for varying periods of time and tested two to three more times before being allowed into the general population. Each test costs approximately $30 to $40. Since most centers rely on funds and personal donations, this extra cost makes eating the birds extremely difficult or impossible.

Should I take down my bird feeders?
There are different opinions on this. Currently, DNR does not require bird feeders to be removed. At the moment, we do not know of any reports or evidence of infection by wild songbirds (passports). However, since we are here in the beautiful Northwoods, you should consider removing the feeders if you want to avoid visits to bears.

Chicks in feed stores. It’s hard to resist giving one or two little fuzz balls to your children or grandchildren.

This creates many difficult outcomes.

Chicks and ducks that are raised as pets will not survive if released into the wild as juveniles or adults. This year in particular, we are asking people to refrain from this, as these birds are highly susceptible to contracting the virus and transmitting the virus to other birds.

Every spring, rehab handlers get bachelor chicks and entire families of bona fide animal lovers who fear they’ll be abandoned.

It is rare for wild animals to abandon their young unless they are injured. Sometimes, especially with woody ducks, the family can break up. If given time and opportunity, they usually come together on their own.

Wooden ducks sometimes have one or two vagrants in the trunk or tree that hop after the mother has already escorted the rest of the family to the nearest water. In general, with a little effort they can be successfully reunited.

It is important not to intentionally move waterfowl to different lakes or rivers as this could spread the virus.

If you notice a bird that is injured or appears sick, do not touch it.

There is no evidence of transmission of the virus to humans, but it is a zoonotic disease. Contact a licensed repairer or DNR for guidance.

Please understand that many centers will not be able to accept the bird in their care. This is as difficult for them as it is for people who find birds.

If you find a dead bird – put on gloves and put the bird in a plastic bag. Report suspicious deaths to DNR at 888-646-6367. If you are advised to get rid of the bird, it can be buried, cremated, placed in double bags and placed in the trash, or taken to a landfill. It is important to locate dead birds and dispose of them properly.

Birds of prey become infected with the virus after eating an infected bird. If they take the corpse to the nest, the children are likely to be infected, too. This virus is always fatal.

The USDA has more information on its website:


Julie Dickey is a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitation professional in northern Minnesota. Her nonprofit organization, Northwoods Wildlife Rescue, captures and releases all kinds of wounded creatures. Julie and her husband Jeff are unpaid volunteers.