Over 200 birds have died from a bird flu outbreak at Baker’s Lake in Barrington, which is home to one of the biggest heron rookeries in the Midwest. | Photo: Forest Preserves of Cook County

Officials estimate over 200 birds have died from a flu outbreak at Baker’s Lake in Barrington last week.

According to laboratory results from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the large bird population at the Baker’s Lake forest preserve in Barrington is suffering from a presumed outbreak of H5 avian influenza, the Forest Preserves of Cook County said.

Forest preserve officials estimate more than 200 birds have died in the past week.

Federal officials are conducting additional testing.

Only the federal government can declare incidences of avian influenza, the forest preserves said.

Baker’s Lake houses one of the most significant heron rookeries in the Midwest and is popular among bird watchers, the forest preserves said.

Many native and migratory birds nest and feed at the lake, including an island rookery.

Wildlife biologists provided seven cormorants to state pathologists on April 7 for testing after numerous dead birds were seen at the lake the evening before.

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Forest preserve staff are continuing to monitor other forest preserves’ locations for signs of avian influenza.

So far, officials have not found evidence of the flu at any other forest preserve sites.

“Because of the nature of the local bird population, the avian influenza impact to date has only been observed among waterfowl and water birds,” the forest preserves said.

“Because passerines—perching birds such as songbirds, sparrows and finches—have not been affected, the Forest Preserves does not recommend the removal of birdfeeders to limit the transmission of the disease,” they added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the H5 avian influenza poses a low risk to the public.

Visitors should not touch or interact with a sick or dead animal at any forest preserve, officials say.

Anyone who observes more than one dead bird at a location should notify forest preserve officials by emailing resourcemanagement.fpcc@cookcountyil.gov.

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