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Don’t pick up dead birds, leave that to the experts
Spaulding Outdoors
By Jack Spaulding

Writing an outdoor column, I get a lot of inquiries about nature in general. One question I get on a regular basis is, “I found a dead bird at my house… can you tell me what killed it?” I ask the precise location where the bird was found. If the location was in front of a large picture window or a glass patio door, the bird probably killed itself in an accidental collision. Large panes of glass can be misinterpreted as open air by birds, and a collision in flight at full speed can kill them outright.

Today, with the onset of West Nile Virus and the advancement of avian influenza, it is better off not to assume anything when one finds a dead bird. It is much better to use a little caution, and in some instances… the Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Animal Health request you notify them.

Recent concerns about avian influenza and West Nile Virus have raised many questions among Hoosiers. The staffs at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) have received a flurry of questions regarding, “What do I do with the dead bird I found in my yard?”

Birds die for many reasons. Natural death is frequent among birds. Many birds have a naturally short life span, must compete with other species, or succumb to severe weather, or predators. Accidental death is also common amongst the wild bird population. Impacts with power lines, vehicle collisions, aircraft strikes and impacts with windows or buildings can all be fatal to a bird.

As if this weren’t enough, toxicants can also be harmful or even fatal to birds. Disease in wild bird populations may contribute to death. Most wild bird diseases present no threat to human health; however, two wild bird-related diseases are of interest.

Within the past few years West Nile Virus has become a common term in Indiana and the Midwest. Wild birds serve as an amplifying host for West Nile Virus. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on infected birds and then biting humans.

Wild birds are also killed by the disease. Blue jays, robins, cardinals, crows and raptors (falcons, hawks and owls) are highly sensitive to the virus, and therefore are the best indicators of virus activity in a community. These are the only species of birds the Indiana State Department of Health laboratory is testing for the virus.

If one of these birds is found dead during mosquito season (May-October) contact the local health department. Local health officials will determine if the bird should be picked up for testing.

In recent months, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been the topic of interest. Avian influenza is most often found in water birds, such as waterfowl (geese, ducks and swans), and shorebirds (sandpiper-type birds).

The DNR has joined with the USDA Wildlife Services in a state/federal partnership to initiate a proactive wild waterfowl surveillance program. The program will establish an early warning system for any evidence of HPAI in migratory waterfowl. Wildlife biologists from DNR and Wildlife Services will be handling all sampling and monitoring activities for HPAI in Indiana.

If dead migratory geese, ducks, swans or shorebirds are found, do not pick up the birds for testing. Contact the Wildlife Conflicts Information Hotline toll free at 1-800-893-4116 to report the location and number of dead waterfowl. DNR and Wildlife Services professional staff will determine if testing is necessary.

If it is not necessary for the bird to be tested, the bird should be disposed of properly. Dead wild birds should not be handled with bare hands. To dispose of a dead bird, use gloves or a plastic bag turned inside out over the hand to pick up the bird, double bag it and either bury it or dispose of it in the trash.

For more information regarding West Nile Virus or avian influenza, e-mail the BOAH at

More information regarding avian influenza can be found by visiting

Groups join forces for tournament
Hoosier catfish champions will want to keep August 5 on their calendars as a chance to compete on the Ohio River with some of the finest catfish anglers in the country.

The Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail, along with U.S. Cats, will hit the waters of the Ohio River at Henderson, Ky. on August 5.

Catfish anglers from both organizations will be competing for cash, prizes and a chance to advance to the Cabela’s King Kat Classic to be held in October on Pickwick/Wilson Lakes at Sheffield, Ala.

The sport of catfishing is growing throughout the nation and the joint effort of the two largest organizations will help to promote and give the sport the recognition it deserves.

The tournament is a team event. Teams will consist of one or two persons with one exception: A third person may accompany the team provided the third person is under 16 or over 65 years of age. Entry fees for the qualifier tournaments are $150 per team.

The tournament weigh-in will be held at the Riverfront Park in Henderson, Ky. Tournament hours are 6:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. All anglers must be in the weigh-in line by 4 p.m. with a seven fish limit per team. To help preserve the sport, only live fish will be weighed in and all fish will be released after the tournament. The event will follow Cabela’s King Kat rules with the exception of no trailering. For a complete list of rules, call 270-395-6774 or visit

Participants may enter by mail at the phone number or website above or register online at:

This farm news was published in the July 5, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.