Handling and Disposing of Dead Wild Birds
Information for Backyard Poultry Flocks
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is present throughout the Eastern United States, and has been detected in three locations in Connecticut (as of early 2022). The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is keeping track of 2022 Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Wild Birds.
There are three important things you need to know about this situation:
- Our food supply is safe. Food is safe because the United States has the strongest avian influenza surveillance system in the world. We actively look for the disease and educate the public and producers on the most appropriate practices to ensure health and safety, as well as provide compensation to affected producers to encourage disease reporting.
- The risk to humans is low. No human infections with these viruses have been detected, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry to be low.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its partners, including DEEP and the CT Department of Agriculture, will continue to do everything they can to support states and producers. USDA is coordinating closely with state officials and other federal departments on rigorous surveillance, reporting, and control efforts.
To help you navigate important information related to these events, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have Avian Influenza webpages with resources to keep you up-to-date and provide guidance for backyard poultry owners.
Reporting Dead Wild Birds
Current scientific evidence indicates that outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza HPAI usually involve the death of a large number of waterfowl or shorebirds – as opposed to individual birds people may find on their property. As a result, when it comes to surveillance of dead wild birds as an early detection measure, DEEP will primarily focus on events that involve large numbers of birds. At this time, we will not routinely be testing individual birds that are found dead – especially if they are backyard birds – robins, sparrows, pigeons, cardinals, etc. – which are not considered to be highly susceptible to Bird Flu. We are, however, interested in all mortality events and will follow up on those that we feel are indicative of a potential HPAI or other wildlife disease outbreak.
Please help us monitor wild bird populations in Connecticut by reporting sightings of dead wild birds to the Wild Bird Mortality Database.
- If you see several dead birds (>5) in one location or notice that several birds die in the same area over the course of several days, this is a situation where testing of the dead birds may be warranted. If you observe this type of die-off, in addition to filling out this form, please call the DEEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011.
- Individual wild backyard birds that are found dead can be reported here and should be disposed of properly (bury or double bag and place in your garbage receptacle).
- Sick or dead domestic birds – mainly poultry - should be reported to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, State Veterinarian at 860-713-2505.
Handling and Disposing of Dead Wild Birds
At this time, the Connecticut DEEP is focusing its avian influenza surveillance on waterfowl, in particular puddle ducks and Canada geese. Current knowledge of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strain that is affecting North America, H5N2, indicates that waterfowl are likely carriers of the virus. The virus is carried by the birds and shed through feces and other bodily fluids. Puddle ducks seem to not be outwardly affected by the virus, whereas Canada geese, similar to domestic poultry, seem to die very quickly when afflicted.
Q) What should I do if I find dead wild birds on my property?
A) DEEP is currently following its normal protocol for dead wild bird testing. That is, birds will be tested if several birds die at the same location at one time or over several days. You can submit information regarding dead wild birds to the state’s Wild Bird Mortality Reporting Website. This site is constantly monitored and, if wild birds that you report warrant testing, you will be contacted.
Q) What is the recommended method for disposing of a dead wild bird that will not be submitted for testing?
A) Avoid direct contact with the bird. Wear gloves or use a shovel to place the bird in a plastic bag. If you do not have gloves, put your hand inside a plastic bag, grab the bird through the bag and pull the bag back over your hand. Tie the bag off, place that bag into a second plastic bag and tie that bag off as well. Spray the outside of the second bag with a 10% bleach solution as well as the area where the dead bird was found, any implements used to collect the bird, and any boots or shoes that were worn while disposing of the dead bird. Double-bagged dead birds should be disposed of in the trash. Always wash hands thoroughly after disposal.
Q) Why is the state not interested in testing one or a few dead wild birds?
A) We are interested in certain instances. For example, Canada geese seem to be very susceptible to this current H5N2 strain. Geese, however, succumb to a number of different causes on a regular basis. We will evaluate each incident that is reported to us and test those birds that seem most likely to have died due to disease rather than another cause. Our current knowledge of the effect of the disease on wild birds other than geese indicates that outbreaks detected in wild water bird populations will likely involve the death of a large number of these species. Surveillance of dead wild birds as an early detection measure is best accomplished by focusing on significant mortality events in wild birds as opposed to individual birds people may come upon or find on their property.
Avian Influenza Information for Backyard Poultry Flocks
Six Simple Steps to Keep Your Birds Safe:
- Step 1: Keep your distance - Isolate your birds from visitors and other birds.
- Step 2: Keep it clean - Prevent germs from spreading by cleaning shoes, tools, and equipment.
- Step 3: Don't haul disease home - Also clean vehicles and cages.
- Step 4: Don't borrow disease from your neighbor - Avoid sharing tools and equipment with neighbors.
- Step 5: Know the warning signs of infectious bird diseases - Watch for early signs to prevent the spread of disease.
- Step 6: Report sick birds - Report unusual signs of disease or unexpected deaths.
Don’t wait to report! If you see symptoms (YouTube Video) in birds or poultry, call USDA toll-free at 1-866-536-7593 or contact the state veterinarian.
Content last updated in April 2022.