Clean birdfeeders, reduce avian flu spread, experts say

If you're a backyard bird watcher, you know there is concern about avian flu spreading in wild bird populations.

Places like Michigan are advising people to take down their bird feeders. But here in Wisconsin – the answer isn't black and white. The best advice is to keep your feeders clean and make sure certain birds aren't congregating.

"This is not the situation we want to be in," said Kim Banach.

At the Wildlife in Need Center in Oconomowoc, thousands of animals are treated each year.

"We want to be open to help as many animals as we can. That’s our goal," Banach said.

Everything from squirrels and ducks get help here, but this week, some of that has changed.

"For us, it’s horrible to be in this situation," Banach said.

Kim Banach

The center is not accepting waterfowl like ducks, scavengers like bald eagles, and aquatic birds.

"It could potentially impact the rest of our avian population," she said.

The changes come as the avian flu spreads in both domestic and wild birds.

"We’ve identified in multiple areas in this state and in multiple species," said Lindsey Long. She is a wildlife veterinarian with the State Department of Natural Resources.

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"We’re actually seeing some birds that show some neurologic symptoms," said Long.

Lindsey Long

As the disease spreads in wild birds, some experts are advising people to take down their backyard feeders and birdbaths.

Long says, in most instances, you're ok – as long as the bird feeders stay clean.

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"Making sure to remove old seed hulls, making sure to remove and wash them regularly," she suggests.

Here, they aren't taking any risks.

"We don’t want congregation of any wild bird at this moment," said Banach.

Trying to keep the animals they do treat--safe.

"We want them to stay apart as far as possible," she said.

The Wisconsin DNR says to take the feeders down if waterfowl are in your yard or if you have domestic birds like chickens.

Their research has shown songbirds are at a lower risk for avian flu.