Bird flu resurfaces in chicken, turkey flocks, in midst of fall migration

Bird flu resurfaces in chicken, turkey flocks, in midst of fall migration

November 7, 20232 min read

Across the U.S., cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza are ramping up again in commercial chicken and turkey flocks as well as backyard flocks. HPAI, commonly known as bird flu, is a highly contagious viral disease that is fatal to chickens and turkeys. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 60 million commercial and backyard birds in the U.S. have died from the disease or been killed to contain its spread, since the current, ongoing outbreak first hit U.S. commercial flocks in early 2022.

Wild bird migrations are an especially important signal to the Delmarva Peninsula, a major broiler chicken producing region, that HPAI could be near.

“In the Atlantic Flyway, extending from the northern Delmarva down to the Carolinas, that’s where the bulk of the Atlantic Flyway birds overwinter,” said Jeffrey Buler, a professor of wildlife ecology in the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “We get tens of thousands of snow geese that are here in the winter, and they’re just starting to arrive.”

Wild birds, particularly waterfowl, can shed the virus through their saliva or feces. Around this time of year, waterfowl are migrating south, to their wintering grounds.

Buler is part of a team of scientists from the University of Delaware, the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Geological Survey that has been researching using weather radar to track migrating wild birds that could be carrying avian influenza viruses.

“It gives us an idea of where and when these migrations are happening,” Buler said. “So ultimately, the poultry industry can ramp up their biosecurity.”

Buler can talk about wild bird migrations, what types of migratory birds we tend to see in Delaware this time of year, trends in fall migration and climate, and ongoing weather radar research.

To arrange an interview with Jeffrey Buler on this topic, click the “Contact” button in his ExpertFile profile.

Connect with:
  • Jeffrey Buler
    Jeffrey Buler Professor, Wildlife Ecology

    Prof. Buler's current research focuses on radar biology, avian ecology and migration, landscape ecology, and conservation biology.

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