Avian flu responsible for three condor deaths

Other condors await testing for the deadly virus

Three California condors in northern Arizona have died of highly pathogenic avian influenza, and tests are still pending for other condors that were found dead.

Another five birds showing signs of illness were sent to a wildlife rehabilitation center. One died. The remaining four are in quarantine while samples are tested for the virus.

The virus has not been detected in the other condor populations in California and Baja California, Mexico.

Staff members with The Peregrine Fund, which manages the Arizona-Utah flock of California condors (Gymnogyps californianus), suspected lead poisoning when they first observed a bird in the wild exhibiting signs of illness on March 9. After the bird died, they collected the carcass and sent it to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensic lab for testing as other birds exhibited similar symptoms.

It tested positive for the virus, as did two other condor carcasses that were collected. Test results are pending for another five birds, and still others are awaiting testing.

California condor recovery partners are working throughout the endangered species’ range to protect wild birds from the deadly virus, which has affected poultry and wild bird populations around the world.

Potential exposure of HPAI is expected to rise during the spring migration of birds north to their breeding grounds. It has been detected in all U.S. states, except Hawaii, in wild and domestic animals.

HPAI is considered low risk as a human health concern, according to the Centers for Disease Control; however, infections in humans have been reported.

Read more from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Header Image: Highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in three California condors in northern Arizona. Credit: Ian Shive/USFWS