Ed Yeates ReportingThe State this week is asking residents to begin surveillance of sick or dying birds -- symptoms which could signal the presence of West Nile infection. It's all part of the state's aggressive campaign to fight what is expected to be a bad season for the virus.
Since yesterday, the State Division of Wildlife Resources has tested about fifty dying or dead birds. So far, all have come up negative for West Nile. But Kris Fehlberg would rather have too many to test than not enough. The State wants to know early how the virus is migrating and where it shows up first. And it's not just birds in the wild.
At Tracy Aviary, especially this season, everybody is keeping an eye on the birds. All of the species in question have now been vaccinated.
The vaccine is equine - designed for horses, not birds. But experimentally, evidence shows many rare birds in captivity, like those at zoos and aviaries, are getting some protection from the vaccine.
Pattie Shreve, Curator, Tracy Aviary: "About a third of our collection has been vaccinated against West Nile virus."
In addition to vaccinations, mosquito abatement is trapping mosquitoes near the birds. The Aviary is also treating or getting rid of standing water near the birds, even cleaning out roof gutters so water there drains out quickly.
The State is recommending all residents do the same, even changing water in birdbaths and outdoor pet dishes every two to three days to prevent a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Margie Noble, Marketing Director, Tracy Aviary: "You know, again we have been preparing for this and have known this is coming for a long time."
Tracy Aviary has some tips for residents on how to identify a sick bird if they see one in their neighborhood.
Pattie Shreve: "The bird looks drunk. It may be weaving or wobbling - unable to stand or perch appropriately, you know slipping off the perch."
Species to look for - the most likely to become infected with West Nile – are birds of prey and those in the Corvid family like ravens, crows or jays.
If you find a sick or dying bird, do not touch it. Call the closest regional office for Wildlife Resources.