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Survey seeks info on colonial seabirds during the current Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus outbreak 

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Since emerging in 1996, a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus (HPAIV) has produced many strains including the H5N1 strain that is currently causing significant mortality among poultry and wild birds. In recent years, a few outbreaks of HPAIV have been documented among colonial seabirds (e.g., African Penguin, Swift Tern, Cape Gannet, Great Skua; Ramey et al., 2022). In December 2021, this strain arrived in North America and was first detected in waterfowl. Since then, it has spread rapidly across the continent, is now found in all four North American flyways, and is causing an unusual mass mortality event among seabirds breeding throughout the North Atlantic (e.g., Canada, Scotland, Iceland).  

To inform ongoing decisions about seabird conservation and management,  there is an effort to collect information about the CURRENT outbreak (e.g., what species, location, and magnitude). and/or PAST large-scale mortality events in colonial breeding seabirds. Information on outbreaks that are confirmed to be caused by HPAIV, and cases where HPAIV is suspected to be the cause, is welcome.

This information will help managers make informed decisions about which species to monitor, the scale of the outbreak, potential population-level impacts, and what actions to take to manage this event. The current outbreak is an evolving situation, and we understand that any information provided will quickly become outdated.  

 Please fill out the survey here.

Questions? Contact Stephanie Avery-Gomm <Stephanie.Avery-Gomm@ec.gc.ca>

Survey questions:  

1. Can you share information on a CURRENT or PAST mortality event in a colonial breeding colony because of confirmed or suspected HPAIV? Please don’t be shy about extrapolating any knowledge/experience to describe your assessment of the population-level impact of the event. Although positive cases of HPAIV are reported to the OIE, we know that only a small number of birds are likely to be sampled during outbreaks and that the total numbers of confirmed positives reported may only reflect a small fraction of total mortality.   

a.        What species are involved?   

b.       Where were the species found? At the colony, away from the colony?  

c.       Was the unusual mass mortality event during the breeding season?  

d.       What is the estimated (or guesstimated) total number of birds killed?  

e.       How many birds were sampled for HPAIV? What proportion was positive?  

f.        What proportion of the colony or global population was killed?   

g.       How can we learn more?  

2.  What mitigation or management options ARE being considered or HAVE been used to reduce the spread of HPAIV in a colony (e.g., carcass burial or burning, dispersing the colony)?   

a.        What were the circumstances (species, location, timing, other pros/cons)?   

b.       Were they deemed successful?  

c.       How can we learn more?  

3. Are there any mitigation measures that you considered or wished others would consider? Under what circumstances do you feel they may be useful?  

4. Is there anything you would like to add? 

About the Ornithological Council

The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management.  The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!

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