Even though avian influenza is often an illness only associated with poultry farmers, this virus can affect wild and captive birds alike, including the birds of prey we use in falconry such as hawks, falcons, owls, and eagles. This flu can be extremely destructive and move quickly through farms if gone undetected, this is why it is critical to monitor your birds daily to check for signs of infection or disease. Common symptoms of avian flu include lethargy, respiratory problems, decreased appetite, nasal secretions, and swollen head and eyelids. In gallinaceous birds specifically such as turkeys, pheasants, and chickens, this can also cause discoloration of the comb and waddle. Unfortunately, there are some asymptomatic cases leading to sudden death, but this is not very common.
The most common cause of transmission from one bird to another is to contact via infected feces or nasal discharge. Unclean bird housing and poor ventilation can also aid in the spread of the virus. For falconry birds and birds of prey, the most likely cause of this virus is contact with infected prey during hunting. But if you have multiple birds in an aviary and one raptor is ill, even if they are in separate mews (rooms), sharing equipment such as leather gloves between an infected and non-infected bird could aid in the transmission of this virus. As a human, you must also be wary of contracting the avian flu from an infected bird the same way another bird would, through feces or nasal secretions. Luckily the spread from bird to human and human to human is rare and unlike a human flu happens very rarely through extremely close contact. Nevertheless, avian influenza symptoms should be treated with caution, proper housekeeping, and proper hygiene as almost 60 percent of people who have contracted the avian flu did not survive.
When talking about avian influenza, there are two main forms of the virus that you should be aware of; low pathogenicity avian influenza (H7N2) and high pathogenicity avian influenza (H5N1). It goes without saying that H5N1 is far more aggressive, killing around 90 percent of birds infected with this virus, while H7N2 presents flu-like symptoms but clears up without causing death nearly 100 percent of the time. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know which form of the virus your bird (s) has without testing, so it is important to take any symptoms seriously and provide treatment and care as soon as possible.
Once detected, antiviral medication can be used in an attempt to cure the virus and is often effective if caught early. It is strongly advised that professional help is sought out if any symptoms occur. In fact, Hawkeye participates in the rehabilitation of birds of prey in hopes that they can be released again into the wild, caring for injured or orphaned birds of prey needing medical treatment. If your bird or a wild bird you found is in need of emergency medical attention, Hawkeye can help connect you to a suitable veterinarian clinic or the University of Guelph Small Animal Clinic. If the bird is wild, please watch them from a distance and do not approach without calling a rescue center or asking for professional help first.
Keep in mind that Hawkeye itself is not an emergency medical treatment center, but we can assist in the rehabilitation of non-emergent injuries or conditions and send you to the proper locations for emergent situations. Not only does Hawkeye assist in rehabilitation, but we have also licensed bird and animal control and removal specialists. Dealing with all fur-bearing animals and pest birds, Hawkeye is your one-stop shop for wildlife control. Call 416.429.5393 today!
Hawkeye is the ONLY Toronto and Golden Horseshoe area licensed Pest Bird Control Specialist offering PERMANENT REMOVAL & GUARANTEED RESULTS. We are uniquely qualified under permits and licenses to PERMANENTLY REMOVE AND CONTROL pest birds such as pigeons, seagulls, geese, starlings, and swallows using a variety of methods including Birds of Prey. Additionally, we offer cleaning and disinfecting of affected areas and facilitate future exclusion of birds.