Dead or Dying Wild Birds (via Bird Count India)

Bird Count India

This is a mirror post from Bird Count India covering the vital (and shocking) issue of dead/dying birds in India. All incremental updates will be posted here on Bird Count India.

A dead Spot-billed Pelican at the Sonnapura wetlands, Dec 2020

Over the past two weeks there have been reports of wild birds dying in separate incidents at different locations in the country. That wild birds die is not necessarily worrying. But it is possible that some of these recent deaths are out of the ordinary, with large numbers dying or reports of diagnoses of H5N1 (avian influenza). At the moment, no-one knows whether these are causes of larger concern, but it is worth keeping an eye on the situation.

Because birdwatchers are frequently out in the field, we can play an important part in detecting and reporting wild birds that are dead or dying. However, depending on the cause of illness/death, it can be very dangerous to approach or handle dead/dying birds.

We will periodically expand this article to include more details, but for now, please follow these safety protocols if you come across a wild bird that is dead or dying.

If you encounter a wild bird that is dead or dying, do not approach it, and under any circumstances do not touch it given the possibility (however small) that it might be infected with avian influenza. H5N1 is a highly contagious virus that can cause severe illness in people, and dead/dying birds should be handled only by trained veterinary personnel wearing appropriate protective gear.

The first thing to do is to contact your local government veterinary, animal husbandry or health department to report the finding. There is also a network of Virus Research Diagnostic Laboratories under ICMR: find the one closest to you and drop them an email to see if they will come and collect a sample. NEW: see the letter dated 3 Jan 2021 from the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change to all Chief Wildlife Wardens, with subject “Enhancing steps for control of death of birds” (pdf).

For more details on Avian Influenza, including symptoms and best practices for veterinary personnel, see FAO (2006) Wild Bird Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Surveillance.

Below is a list of reports of dead/dying birds in India from Dec 2020 onwards. You can help us keep this list updated by letting us know of (1) additional news reports or (2) your own observations.

Please email the following information to skimmer@birdcount.in and/or email info@conservationindia.org: 

  1. For news reports or reports on social media
    Please send a link to the article, or a screenshot/clipping. Please ensure that the source (eg newspaper name) and date of publication is visible.
  2. For your own observations
    Please observe through binoculars from a safe distance.
    Please email: Location (locality, district, state); Date of observation; Number of birds affected, including species; Description, including any observations of unusual behaviour, injury etc; Any photos of the birds. It would be ideal if you can upload an eBird list with all the details listed here, and send us the link.

LIST OF REPORTS

ALL INDIA / MULTIPLE STATES

2021-01-05. Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi, clipping); Hindustan Times;
2021-01-04. The Logical IndianNews18Business Today.
2021-01-03. Letter from the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change to all Chief Wildlife Wardens, with subject “Enhancing steps for control of death of birds” (pdf).

DELHI
Yamuna Khadar, Delhi
Date of incident: 2 Jan 2021
Description: 2 Ruddy Shelduck found dead
Cause: unknown
Source: eBird list

GUJARAT
Junagadh
Date of incident: 2 Jan 2021
Description: 53 birds found dead, including 46 lapwings.
Cause: unknown; test results awaited
Source: Ahmedabad Mirror (clipping); Indian Express (link)

HARYANA
2020-01-03: Over 1 lakh domestic chickens die in Panchkula poultry farms, cause unknown (Indian ExpressHindustan Times)

HIMACHAL PRADESH
Pong Dam
2021-01-04: Times of India (clipping); Samachar First (Hindi); NDTVAmar Ujala (Hindi); India Today.
UPDATE 2021-01-04: H5N1 confirmed in all five of the BH Goose samples sent to NIHSAD, Bhopal [see lab report] and total death toll rises to over 2,400 birds (Siasat Daily). There have been further orders today from the District Magistrate Kangra (pdf).

Date of incident: 28 Dec 2020 – 1 Jan 2021.
Description: Over 1,000 birds found dead, mostly Bar-headed Geese.
Cause: unknown, poisoning is tentatively ruled out; samples sent to NIHSAD Bhopal. See update below.
Source: Indian Express; IANS (via Times Now NewsTribune IndiaBusiness Standarddaijiworld.com); Hindustan TimesIndia TodayZee News. See also 22 Dec eBird list. See also: Order from Office of District Magistrate Kangra on 1 Jan 2021, creating Alert and Surveillance zones, and prohibiting  activities (pdf).

KARNATAKA
Sonnapura, Chikkaballapura
Date of incident: 19-27 Dec 2020
Description: 19 December: 2 dead Spot-billed Pelican, 1 dead Black-crowned Night Heron;  23 Dec: 1 sick Pelican, remains of 1 Little Stint and 1 Northern Shoveler; 27 Dec: 2 more dead Pelicans
Cause: unknown
Sources: 19 Dec (eBird link), 23 Dec (eBird link), 27 Dec (eBird link)

KERALA
Deaths of 12,000 domestic ducks from 19 Dec onwards; H5N8 confirmed. Source: Business LineThe HinduIndia.com.

MADHYA PRADESH
Mandsaur
Date of incident: 30 Dec 2020
Description: Unknown number of crows (more than 100 in one week’s period) found dead in Mandsaur Court Area.
Cause: unknown, postmortem reports are awaited.
Sources: Mandsaur Darshan (Hindi, clipping); India Today (2021-01-04, link)

Indore
Date of incident: 29 Dec 2020 – 1 Jan 2021.
Description: 50 crows found dead.
Cause: diagnosis of H5 (avian flu) in two of the 50 birds.
Source: Dainik Bhaskar, Indore edition (Hindi, clipping).

MAHARASHTRA
Mamlade, Jalgaon
Date of incident: 1 Jan 2021
Description: Single birds of three species found dead
Cause: unknown
Source: eBird link

RAJASTHAN
See order of the Chief Wildlife Warden of the state in relation to avian influenza, dated 31-12-2020 (pdf)

General reports
2021-01-05: Total wild birds deaths 522 (Times of India); 170 new deaths (Indian Express)
2021-01-04: Indian Express; Times of India Jaipur edn (clipping); NDTV.
2021-01-03: NDTVHindustan Times.
2021-01-02: Free Press JournalHindustan TimesIndia Today.

Jaisalmer
Date of incident: 4 Jan 2021?
Description: crows found dead
Cause: unknown; samples collected
Source: Times of India (link)

Jaipur
Date of incident: 3 Jan 2021
Description: 15 crows found dead, 5 ill
Cause: unknown; samples sent for testing
Source: Rajasthan Patrika (HIndi, clipping)

Jhalawar
Date of incident: 25 Dec 2020.
Description: Unknown number of crows found dead.
Cause: 5 crows found positive for H5N1 (avian flu) [see lab report] Source: Hindustan Times; India TV via dailyhunt.in.

Nagaur
Date of incident: 1 Jan 2021
Description: 50 birds including crows, peafowls and pigeons were found dead.
Cause: suspected to be H5N1 (based on recent detection of the virus in birds from Indore)
Source: News18 India (link), ERDS Foundation (tweet)

Jodhpur
Date of incident: 25 Dec 2020 – 1 Jan 2021
Description: Over 55 peafowl found dead
Cause: unknown; suspected to be H5N1
Source: ERDS Foundation (tweet)

TAMIL NADU
Auroville, Villupuram District
Date of incident: 28 Dec 2020
Description: Over 30 Coppersmith Barbets found dead
Cause: unknown, poisoning suspected
Source: The Hindunewsrashtra.com; Puthiyathalaimurai TV in Youtube

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