WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: Suspected local case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, and what you need to know about it

Tonight community naturalist and urban-wildlife first responder Kersti Muul shares the story of what happened when she checked out a report of a bird in trouble at Lincoln Park. What she found includes some information you should know in case you encounter one. The problem is HPAI – Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza – and a warning, this story includes an image of a dead bird (after the jump, if you’re viewing by laptop or desktop):

Today I received a text during my monthly Audubon Neighborhood Bird Project survey, about a bird on the shore by the middle seawall.

Right now we are having another big surge of HPAI, so I went down to assess the situation and dispatch or dispose of it properly if it was dead.

As I mentioned in my recent eagle notes, cackling geese and snow geese are now getting infected. Sadly, it was a snow goose. I’ve been watching the snow geese flying north over West Seattle in the past month.

I found a large spot of diarrhea and the bird also had what we call ‘twisted neck’:

Some outward signs of HPAI include:

Twisted neck, corneal opacity (cloudy eyes), diarrhea (which can often be bright green), sneezing, labored breathing, grounded, shaking head, wobbly walking, lethargy, being hunkered down, swimming in circles, and late-stage seizures.

In my experiences, death happens shortly after the seizures.

I made a little infographic to help with what you should do if you should come across a dead bird (duck, goose, swan, chicken, raptor). If you are uncomfortable/unprepared, I can always come out and deal with it.

Infected waterfowl are spreading to eagles, which are very susceptible. It can also be transmitted to humans If the proper precautions are not taken.

If you come across one, or do decide to dispose of it, PLEASE report it here to track – it’s super-important:


I’m REALLY trying to get the word out and educate people on this and how to protect themselves as well as stopping it from spreading to the raptors. West Seattle had a few confirmed cases in the Spring. Also, the adult female eagle from Salmon Creek Ravine was likely infected with HPAI. She was euthanized after declining neurologically.

We asked Kersti if this is something people might see in backyard birds. Her reply: “This impacts chickens so – backyard birds in that sense. No songbird issue. However, it is spread through bodily fluids so if birds are asymptomatic or not infected they could spread it that way if the saliva or feces is on them, etc.” The important points, again, are – don’t touch, and do report.

5 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: Suspected local case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, and what you need to know about it"

  • Suzanne November 21, 2022 (1:13 am)

    Thanks for getting the word out on HPAI and for including the photos, which are very helpful. What a miserable disease for these poor birds. According to the Raptor Center, HPAI also affects owls — Great Horned Owls are particularly susceptible, along with crows and jays. It can also affect hummingbirds. To reduce transmission, they recommend taking down bird feeders and bird baths. The Raptor Center’s data was current up to 10/23/22 so doesn’t include impacts from this outbreak. What are your thoughts on their information? https://raptor.umn.edu/about-us/our-research/HPAI

    We have several bird baths — we change the water daily and scrub with dish soap every couple of weeks. But we disinfect with bleach only once every couple of months. Wondering if that’s enough during this current outbreak. Or should we cover them to prevent access?

    • WS Res November 21, 2022 (4:03 pm)

      The hummingbird caution is concerning – my two feeders are high-traffic as the cold weather has set in. But it seems unclear from the map and linked info. Kersti, do you have any thoughts?Also, very sad news re: the eagle that didn’t make it.

  • Dea November 21, 2022 (11:25 am)

    Decontaminate your clothing when you get home (especially your pockets) and maybe choose a cheaper coat to work in. Down doesn’t wash THAT well. I know it’s hard to suspend the joy of birdfeeders and baths. I’m sorry. But there might be quicker protocols that could be done every day at least.

  • Scubafrog November 21, 2022 (3:22 pm)

    The don’t touch, and do report are good to know.  I agree it’s awful knowing how much the birds suffer in this disease.  Really quite sad.  I hope  people get the word about taking down feeders/baths.

  • waikikigirl November 22, 2022 (4:17 pm)

    Kersti, Then could the Salmon Creek Eagle  had been the one I mentioned to you flying low and erratic sad to hear it had to be put down and very sad that so many birds are getting infected?

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