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Atlantic Canada experts divided on backyard feeders as bird flu continues to spread

HALIFAX – Chicken consultants in Atlantic Canada are break up on whether or not placing out yard fowl feeders over the winter is innocent or probably lethal to birds given the chance of avian flu.

Bob Bancroft, the president of Nature Nova Scotia, mentioned in an interview this week that he understands the love many Atlantic Canadians have for birds, however he says with a purpose to shield them from probably deadly illnesses, feeders shouldn’t be used.

“I really feel strongly that in case you’re actually fascinated with the welfare of the birds, there’s a large downside with feeding them within the winter,” Bancroft mentioned, noting that salmonella, trichinosis and avian influenza can unfold the place birds congregate to eat.

The H5N1 avian flu first appeared in Newfoundland final December, when it was confirmed at a farm within the St. John’s space. Officers mentioned on the time it was the primary detection of the virus in Canada since 2015. It has since been present in wild birds and on dozens of poultry farms throughout the nation, though the Canadian Meals Inspection Company at the moment lists no amenities in Atlantic Canada as contaminated.

The Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador governments have all issued statements over the previous yr advising residents to keep away from feeding birds. Bancroft mentioned the provinces had been proper to supply this recommendation, and that New Brunswickers ought to keep away from feeders as nicely as a result of the chance of transmission exists throughout the area.

Elizabeth Walsh, a regional biologist with Nova Scotia’s Division of Pure Assets, mentioned in an interview Thursday that the province continues to advise towards using fowl feeders. Walsh mentioned taking down fowl feeders is a method for residents to assist Nova Scotia’s efforts in “making an attempt to do every little thing in our energy to stop additional unfold” of the extremely pathogenic H5N1 pressure of avian influenza

In Nova Scotia, there have been greater than 3,700 lifeless or sick birds reported to the province this yr, and there have been 23 confirmed instances of H5N1 avian influenza, Walsh mentioned. The biologist mentioned she doesn’t understand how lots of the sick or lifeless birds have been examined for avian flu — however she famous that analysis take time because it requires a PCR check adopted by affirmation testing at a laboratory in Winnipeg.

Walsh mentioned the 23 confirmed avian flu instances in Nova Scotia are largely in seabirds, however they’ve additionally been recognized in blue jays, crows and pigeons.

Ian Jones, a biology professor with Memorial College in St. John’s, N.L., who focuses on fowl conservation, disagrees that fowl feeders pose a big danger of avian flu transmission in Atlantic Canada. He mentioned that as a result of avian flu largely impacts waterfowl and poultry, most yard fowl feeders are at a particularly low danger of spreading the illness.

“How are a few dark-eyed juncos and chickadees coming to a fowl feeder in some way going to be an issue for extremely pathogenic avian influenza? And the reply is, scientifically, it’s not,” Jones mentioned in an interview.

“Authorities’s suggestion to take down fowl feeders is scientifically ludicrous,” he mentioned.

Jones mentioned landfills are a a lot larger danger to avian illness in comparison with yard feeders, and if provinces are involved about wild fowl well being they need to guarantee landfills are lined and secured.

“Landfills with uncovered rubbish … it’s like an enormous fowl feeder which, I imagine, is in impact an enormous avian flu super-spreader,” he mentioned. Jones mentioned open landfills appeal to starlings, crows, gulls and different scavenging birds that may simply transmit illnesses.

Vanessa Roy-MacDougall, the manager director of Nature New Brunswick, mentioned that so long as individuals take excellent care of their feeders with common cleansing and monitoring, feeders are OK to make use of within the winter. Feeders ought to be scrubbed weekly with a vinegar and bleach resolution, she mentioned.

“The factor to do is maintain it clear and keep watch over the birds in case there may be some form of bizarre behaviour,” Roy-MacDougall mentioned Wednesday.

If a fowl permits you to method it or is appearing torpid, that might be an indication of avian influenza and would imply the feeder ought to be eliminated and the sick fowl ought to be reported to the province.

Fiep de Bie, a Prince Edward Island-based wildlife technician with the Canadian Wildlife Well being Cooperative, discourages using yard fowl feeders, noting that any danger to birds’ well being is price avoiding.

“Avian influenza will not be a giant menace at fowl feeders, however anyplace the place birds are congregating there’s a danger of illness unfold,” she mentioned in an interview.

Bancroft means that as a substitute of feeders, fowl lovers ought to work on creating a perfect pure surroundings for birds. He mentioned one of the simplest ways to do that is by planting any berry or fruit-bearing bushes or bushes.

“I planted one excessive bush cranberry, and birds are far and wide right here,” Bancroft mentioned.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Nov. 5, 2022.

This story was produced with the monetary help of the Meta and Canadian Press Information Fellowship.


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