The Hamilton Spectator

Birds found on trail didn’t have avian flu: city

Large flock discovered dead along beach strip likely flew into hydro lines, animal services says


Twenty-five dead birds found along Hamilton’s beach strip trail last week aren’t a sign of avian flu infiltrati­ng local flocks, the city says.

The carcasses of the birds were discovered on a section of the pathway, between Beach Boulevard and 5th Avenue, after a routine cleanup conducted by animal services March 16.

Their presumed cause of death?

Flying into hydro lines — not a product of the highly pathogenic bird flu that’s recently been confirmed in parts of Ontario, according to the city.

“Animal services officers reported the birds passed due to external trauma (i.e., flying into hydro lines) and will not be sent to the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative for testing,” city spokespers­on Michelle Shantz said over email.

The discovery of the birds — whose carcasses became visible thanks to melted snow — came as cases of H5N1 avian influenza continue to climb in pockets of southern Ontario.

Three cases have been detected in recent weeks in Chatham-Kent, Niagara Region and Brampton. On Tuesday, Halton public health warned residents about the highly contagious virus after dead birds suspected of carrying avian flu were found in the region.

But city staff maintain there is nothing to suggest the birds found along the beach trail were infected with H5N1.

While locating a large flock of dead birds in one area is a flag for avian influenza, Shantz said, in this case — given the proximity to the hydro lines and the injuries being consistent with hydro line trauma — “animal services believed and consulted with the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative to confirm” none of these appeared suspicious for the flu type.

It remains unclear what caused the two dozen birds to have a fateful encounter with the power lines. The city said there are no new lines in the area they were found.

“It is probable that high winds/storm blew them off course ... making avoidance difficult, or fog or other weather factors that the flock could not avoid going into the line,” Shantz said, noting it’s not uncommon for animal services to respond to such deaths.

Hamilton public health said the risk of H5N1 to city residents remains very low.

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