File Photo – Bird Feeder | Photo: blende12 via Pixabay

State officials on Thursday said they are urging residents in Illinois to stop using bird feeders and birdbaths due to an influenza outbreak killing birds.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) issued updated public recommendations regarding wild birds.

The department said the EA H5N1 strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is currently impacting some wild and domestic bird species.

While HPAI has not been detected in songbird species, IDNR recommends the use of bird feeders and birdbaths cease through May 31 or until influenza infections in the Midwest subside, especially those that waterfowl may visit.

The IDNR said that wild birds will have ample food sources while bird feeders are removed this spring.

The department recommends that residents clean and rinse bird feeders and baths with a diluted bleach solution and put away or clean weekly if they can’t be moved away from birds.

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Residents should also remove any birdseed at the base of bird feeders to discourage large gatherings of birds or other wildlife.

Avoid feeding wild birds in close proximity to domestic flocks, the IDNR said.

Those who find five or more deceased wild birds in one location should contact an IDNR district wildlife biologist. Wildlife biologists’ contact information can be found online here.

The IDNR also asks that all occurrences of deceased or sick bald eagles be reported to the agency.

“When disposing of any deceased wild birds, rubber gloves and a mask should be worn, and the carcass should be double-bagged in sealed plastic bags. The bags can be buried away from scavengers or placed in the garbage if approved by the local waste service provider. Anyone handling deceased birds should thoroughly wash their hands and any other clothes or tools with soap and water following disposal,” the department said in a statement.

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IDNR first announced HPAI was detected in wild Canada geese in Illinois on March 10.

Wild bird mortality from HPAI has since been confirmed in Champaign, Fulton, Sangamon, and Will counties.

According to laboratory results, the large bird population at the Baker’s Lake forest preserve in Barrington is suffering from an outbreak of HPAI.

Forest preserve officials estimate more than 200 birds have died this month.

With spring turkey season underway, the IDNR also noted that wild turkeys are less likely to contract influenza given their behavior and the habitats they occupy.

Turkey hunters are recommended to thoroughly cook game meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.