Update on the Avian Flu

March 21, 2023

ALT Text: Three California Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) with brown bodies, white necks and heads and orange beaks in the water. Photo credit: Roy W. Lowe, USFWS.

We continue to keep close watch as the “bird flu” persists on the US West Coast and around the globe. The avian flu (HPAI) is still impacting birds worldwide, causing seizures and neurological symptoms that are shortly followed by death. In the United States, as of December 2022, there had been 4,362 positive cases recorded in 108 wild bird species. The first confirmed case in California was in July 2022, but according to Bay Nature, the actual count of infected birds is likely much higher than the number of human-administered tests can measure. 

Beach Watch, a coastal monitoring program of Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries and Greater Farallones Association, has been collecting vital wildlife data on the shores of Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary for 30 years with the support of community volunteers. Project staff are  watching the situation closely. While Beach Watch data is vital to understanding where and when birds, mammals and humans use the sanctuary, it does not investigate the cause of death for animals found deceased. “The data that we collect is limited to the abundance and distribution of beached birds and not their cause of death,” says Beach Watch Program Manager Kirsten Lindquist. Because we do not conduct tests on wild animals, we look to other partners to provide specifics on the avian flu in this region. 

The public should be aware that the avian flu is a highly contagious virus and can be transmitted to humans. View recommended precautions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Bird Flu Current Situation webpage.

Learn more about the Beach Watch coastal monitoring program:

Photo credit: Roy W. Lowe, USFWS (Brown Pelicans)