Avian flu took toll on wild birds in Canada last year

Biologists are preparing for a resurgence of the virus this spring

Some 40,000 sick and dead wild birds in eastern Canada were reported to officials during last year’s breeding season, researchers found. The likely cause was highly pathogenic avian flu, a strain that has been unusually devastating to both wild and domesticated bird populations. The true toll of the virus is believed to be much higher.

“We know that this is just a fraction of the true mortality, because not every bird that is observed will be recorded,” Stephanie Avery-Gomm, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, told the CBC.

Seabirds made up 95% of the total number of reports to federal, provincial and Indigenous officials. Northern gannets (Morus bassanus) accounted for around 24,500 reports.

Officials expect numbers to surge again this spring as birds return from their wintering grounds.

Read more from the CBC.

Header Image: Northern gannets accounted for most of the sick and dead birds reported to authorities in eastern Canada last year. Credit: Ryan Hagerty/USFWS