The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota has given the all-clear for people to reinstall their bird feeders, per an online update last week. This comes nearly two months after its initial recommendation for people to take down their feeders in mid-April because of the bird flu.
"While HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] is still present in wild birds, our data shows an adequate decrease in the number of positive patients to believe the risk from bird feeders is low enough that they can be used again," the update reads. It goes on to say that weather or fall migration possibly could lead to a rise in cases.
The Raptor Center's initial recommendation to take feeders down — informed by an "abundance of caution," according to executive director Dr. Victoria Hall — was not seconded by many other local organizations, including the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
"WRC has followed guidelines from the MNDNR and only advises pulling feeders if you have waterfowl grazing underneath the feeders. We've been taking swabs from live water birds and songbirds that show potential symptoms. As yet, HPAI hasn't been found in any significance in songbirds," WRC communications director Tami Vogel said in an e-mailed statement.
The center saw its first positive case of the "unprecedented" flu on March 28. According to Hall, only one of the 200 total cases the center has seen since then has ended with the bird's survival and successful return to the wild.
Despite that difficulty, she said that it's been heartening to see how closely people in the community monitor and discuss recommendations on best practices for the birds.
"It just shows that Minnesotans care so much about birds, and that is just the most exciting thing because that means we've got people that want to take care of them," she said.