WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: Swan with bird-flu symptoms on Alki

2:25 PM: That’s Kersti Muul‘s photo of a Trumpeter Swan seen at Alki this morning, showing signs of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, aka “bird flu.” She says it was last seen headed toward Duwamish Head, but wants to remind everyone to keep your distance – and especially to keep dogs leashed (they’re not supposed to be on the beach anyway), as this is a contagious disease for which there is no cure. It’s also a risk to other wild birds and has led to Bald Eagle deaths, as reported here recently. Here’s background on the current nationwide situation.

10:04 PM: As Kersti updated in comments, the bird died. She emailed us to explain, “James Tilley and I hiked up and down Alki until we found it. There’s no way I wanted the eagles or dogs getting into that tomorrow. Looks like some dogs already have at least approached (paw prints in sand). Bird has been double bagged and disposed of and my report to WDFW updated.”

23 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: Swan with bird-flu symptoms on Alki"

  • Paul Tankel December 3, 2022 (3:58 pm)

    We saw a swam be washed up on shore at 53rd around 11am. It showed some signs of life so be cautious of avian flu we pushed it on shore with sticks. Not knowing who to call, I let a message on the blog phone line. Once on shore it was clear the swam died and with the tide coming up it was probably taken out into the Sound.

  • Kersti Elisabeth Muul December 3, 2022 (4:27 pm)

    This bird will likely die in the next 24 hours and may wash up locally becoming a hazard.  I would hate for other local eagles in that area like (Bey and Jay)  to scavenge on it and become ill and die.  It wanted to get onto shore but there were dogs running around off leash. I did speak with owners’ and had them leash up and explained what was going on.I walked with it as it swam just 10 feet at times off shore until it was away from the public beach.Obvious symptoms included: disoriented, shaking head, unable to stand on its own and getting tumbled by surf, lethargic, unusually unconcerned by humans and dogs in close proximity.If you see this juvenile trumpeter swan alive or dead, please report to WDFWs online reporting form for sick birds. You can let me know as well I will be happy to respond and safely, and appropriately dispose.


    • Al King December 3, 2022 (6:08 pm)

      KEM. Daily walker along Alki Ave. My record for off leash dogs running in the sand-at the same time is 12. Clearly has become an off-leash dog park. Clearly sanctioned by the city as there is ZERO enforcement.   

  • Paul Tankel December 3, 2022 (7:42 pm)

    Kersti, I was back out there at 4:30 this afternoon and the swan was washed up on shore behind some logs. It’s probably tp late for you to do something and in the future I’ll know to contact WDFW.Thanks for all you do 

    • Kersti Elisabeth Muul December 3, 2022 (9:10 pm)

      WDFW is a reporting link. They very likely won’t come out to dispose unless it is a new species they want to test but DO report so they can continue to track spread… so always let the blog or I know

  • Kersti Elisabeth Muul December 3, 2022 (8:54 pm)

    I found the bird this evening and disposed of it safely and properly.

  • Paul Tankel December 3, 2022 (9:46 pm)

    Thank you for saving many other birds 

  • anonyme December 4, 2022 (6:19 am)

    My yard is absent of birds, which has never happened before.  Usually, I have robins feasting on the mountain ash berries, and lots of juncos, chickadees, etc.  This year – nothing; not even starlings.  It is literally dead quiet.  I didn’t think that HPAI affected songbirds, but this is eerie.  More than 52 million birds have died so far this year.  It’s difficult to assess what percentage of that number represents culled poultry vs. wild birds, but it’s truly frightening either way.

    • Ly December 4, 2022 (12:07 pm)

      Strange. My yard is chick full of backyard birds today. We saw blue Jays, loads of robins, starlings, juncos, chickadees, northern flickers.

    • Ann Anderson December 4, 2022 (1:07 pm)

      Anonyme,First, thanks for noting and caring about the birds near you. Given the data gathered so far by WDFW, USDA, and CDC, your backyard disappearance is unlikely primarily attributed to avian influenza, since, while it can affect songbirds, data indicating that they are dying in significant numbers from it has not yet been documented / released.  

      I think lots of people might be wondering the same thing when birds seem to go absent (including myself).  So I offer my research so far re  the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HPAI). particularly regarding songbirds, which make up the vast majority of wild backyard birds).In response to a letter I recently wrote to WDFW about HPAI, songbirds & feeder spread etc., I received a prompt reply from Katherine Haman, DVM, MSc,Wildlife Veterinarian (Diversity), Department of Fish and Wildlife. Excerpts from her letter include, We are seeing an uptick in HPAI cases, especially in western WA. If you have domestic birds, I would strongly recommend keeping them locked in to minimize their exposure to wild birds, especially waterfowl.”  but also, There is little to no information that indicates this virus impacts or circulates in songbirds”.  By information, she would be referencing statistically significant data re confirmed W. WA HPAI deaths.  That same stance is currently confirmed by USDA APHIS, and the CDC among others.   If you scroll and note the species with HPAI fatalities shown on the following sites: you will see that almost all of the “wild birds” listed are waterfowl  – wild ducks, geese, swans, sea ducks etc. (not songbirds). https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/avian-influenza/hpai-2022/2022-hpai-wild-birdshttps://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/data-map-wild-birds.htmlNot to say that can’t change, but also remember that by far, the biggest #s of the “millions” of HPAI-related deaths seen in the headlines are landfowl (commercial and backyard poultry – chickens, turkeys etc). hence the warnings about them not mixing up with esp waterfowl.  Kersti Mull, in addition to coming to the rescue of infected birds, has been diligently keeping us well-informed about our local infections / fatalities including waterfowl and raptors (eagles / birds of prey) and I’m sure will immediately inform us of any changing trends. Am curious as to what general  area or neighborhood  you live in?  Have you checked ebird for any of the same species / hot spots falling off near you? Neighborhoods near where we live  – Robins  Juncos and Starlings seem to be usual #s for this time of year- however, begun to notice Chickadees do seem to be MIA in the usual places – but often that can be cyclical and many other reasons.  IF NO birds in your yard noted at same frequency, for same times of day and  at same time of year as previous observations – there might be something else going on near you that needs further investigation – which could be anything.  One possibliity: the last time that happened in our yard –  after much sleuthing -it turned out that a Cooper’s hawk was haunting the area  daily from a hidden perch inside dense greenery above.  Eventually the hawk found other food sources and the songbirds returned.  BTW, having feeders will  entice hungry urban hawks sooner or later.Lastly, given the info above, I repeat Kersti’s call to definitely let WDFW know about any sick or dead birds observed  -as well as to WSB / Kersti.https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/a384e90f69744f2e846135a9ce80027f

    • K December 4, 2022 (2:40 pm)

      We have had more birds than ever, and even spotted a red-breasted sapsucker which is a new species for our yard. We’ve had the starling flocks, robins, b/c chickadees, juncos, Anna’s, song and golden crowned sparrow. And our favorite corvids. I haven’t see the usual white crowned sparrows, but they usually don’t make themselves super apparent until the spring anyhow (and call in their late night and early evening patterns). And the House finch family had a wonderful year with 3 fledglings! Hoping your avian visitors return soon!

  • Scarlett December 4, 2022 (12:56 pm)

    Fine to keep updated on the virus, but I could do without the gruesome photo’s of the dead birds.    

    • Al King December 4, 2022 (2:30 pm)

      Scarlett. Too many people wouldn’t pay attention (or care) if there wasn’t a visual example of what is happening. It’s too bad but it’s the truth.

  • Paul Tankel December 4, 2022 (5:33 pm)

    I’ve only lived in Alki for just for just over a year (moving from Rochester NY). I’m out along the Sound daily and there I was Saturday not knowing what to do when I saw the dead swan. I expected it might be HPAI. People were calling down to me to do something and I had no idea who to contact. Now we know who to contact.This blog has great pictures of birds but it’s important that we share pictures of dead birds to prompt us to act to think about what causes their death. In the US alone approximately 2.4 billion birds a year are killed by outdoor cats and approximately another billion birds a year are killed by striking glass

    • Scarlett December 4, 2022 (11:10 pm)

      We’ll have to agree to disagree; I find the visuals a gratuitous display of death, but others might not feel the same way.  

  • Kersti Elisabeth Muul December 5, 2022 (8:32 am)

    To all above asking about song birds. It’s not been an issue here, and that has no bearing on your yard being quiet. In Washington there have been crows and ravens who have tested positive.On thanksgiving I received a call about a flicker in whatcom county that was displaying symptoms of HPAI and we have determined that it is ‘highly likely’ I don’t feel it is unsafe to feed your birds unless you have chickens around. Until we have positive cases locally I would not panic. For those who don’t care to see dead birds, perhaps just read the information at the top. If it’s an HPAI story it WILL involve dead and dying birds. I had a hard time getting people to pay attention or care until King 5 published my video of the sick eagle. It does work. Death is a part of life, every life. And we need to be hyper aware of the issues that are impacting the wildlife we share space with. Especially ones with zoonotic disease.

    • Scarlett December 5, 2022 (10:17 am)

      Yes, but this is a public forum and there is a thing as exercising some discretion.  You are likely turning OFF some of us who love birds and otherwise might be interested in following HPAI.   You can provide a link to a private website where anyone who wants can view some of the more disturbing images.   

      • Kersti Elisabeth Muul December 6, 2022 (11:21 pm)

        I’m not in control of your feelings towards birds. Nobody ever stopped caring about birds because they saw a dead one…in fact it’s the reverse.  You can seek out those other websites you are advising me to post, instead of reading here, apparently you’re a ware of some.  The photo isn’t even in the post it’s in the comments. 

  • Kersti Elisabeth Muul December 5, 2022 (8:35 am)

    Add Flicker in ‘likely’ categoryAnd again, it can be spread to humans that don’t take precautions 

  • Kersti Elisabeth Muul December 5, 2022 (7:19 pm)

    Adding hooded merganser to the list today.

  • anonyme December 6, 2022 (12:36 pm)

    I spoke too soon!  Yesterday my yard was filled with birds, with all of the most common local varieties represented – including flickers.  I think the snow and freezing weather may have had something to do with it, especially as I no longer have feeders.

    • K December 6, 2022 (1:50 pm)

      Yay!! So glad they are back.

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