INDIANAPOLIS – While Illinois and Michigan have issued recommendations against using bird feeders amid an outbreak of avian influenza, an Indiana wildlife expert says Hoosiers can keep putting them out.

Michelle Benavidez Westrich, a wildlife health biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said the DNR is not asking people to remove their bird feeders at this time.

That guidance could change down the road, depending on how the situation develops.

“We are also monitoring the situation closely and will adjust our guidance in the future, if necessary,” Benavidez Westrich said, adding that the DNR was aware of the guidance in nearby states.

Benavidez Westrich said multiple songbirds have been tested for avian influenza statewide. The tests have shown zero positive cases.

A highly contagious strain of bird flu has infected millions of birds at commercial and domestic farms nationally. In Indiana, nine sites in three counties (Dubois, Elkhart and Greene counties) have reported positive tests, resulting in the depopulation of turkeys and ducks at those farms, according to the Indiana State Board of Animal Health.

Waterbirds and raptors likely to spread highly pathogenic avian influenza don’t typically visit bird feeders, Benavidez Westrich noted. Avian influenza cases have been reported in bald eagle, red-tailed hawk and redhead duck populations in Dubois, Johnson, Miami and Starke counties, according to the DNR.

Last year, an illness swept through songbirds in the Midwest, leading the DNR to ask Hoosiers to take down their bird feeders as a precaution. That request was withdrawn in September.

If you do see sick or dead songbirds, DNR recommends the following actions:

  • Clean feeders by removing all of the debris and scrubbing the feeder out (while wearing gloves to prevent salmonella infection), soaking the feeders in a diluted bleach solution no stronger than 1 part bleach to 9 parts water, and then rinsing and drying the feeders completely before adding food.
  • Keep bird feeders down until sick birds are no longer seen.
  • Once the feeders are back up, monitor the bird feeders for additional sick birds.
  • Report any additional sick or dead birds through our online sick and dead wildlife reporting system.

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