Green Acres


May 11, 2022

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in states throughout the central and western United States including Montana. Although avian influenza is a highly contagious disease to domestic poultry, there are no apparent risks to human health at this time. It is safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry products, including meat and eggs. Good biosecurity helps keep birds healthy. Steps you can take include minimizing contact with wild birds and other poultry, sanitizing equipment and clothing used around them, and control access to poultry pens. Monitor your birds closely and contact your veterinarian and the Montana Department of Livestock immediately if you suspect illness at 406-444-2976.

What about bird feeders? There is currently very low risk of an outbreak among wild songbirds. As a result, there is no official recommendation to take down feeders unless you also keep domestic poultry, according to the National Wildlife Disease Program. However, bird feeders and birdbaths need to be cleaned regularly for disease prevention.

USDA APHIS has a strong, multiyear surveillance program that routinely samples wild birds including flocks of songbirds (and other species such as rock pigeons and mourning doves that are often around humans) for the presence of avian influenza. So far in 2022, they’ve detected the HPAI strain in 857 wild birds. Only six infections in songbirds have been detected which were all American crows in North Dakota.

Avian influenza does not affect all types of birds equally. The “highly pathogenic” part of the term HPAI refers specifically to the severity of the disease in poultry, not necessarily in other bird species. For example, waterfowl often carry and transmit bird flu, but rarely get sick from the disease (even from HPAI strains). Raptors are much more sensitive to the disease than waterfowl. Domestic poultry are extremely susceptible to HPAI and spread the disease easily, leading to up to 100% mortality of affected flocks.

Songbirds are much less likely than waterfowl to contract avian influenza and are less likely to shed large amounts of virus, meaning they do not transmit the disease easily. The complete article is located at

Montana State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Montana Counties Cooperating. MSU Extension is an equal opportunity/affirmative action provider of educational outreach.


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