Confusion reigns over whether it is safe for people to keep bird feeders going amid the current crisis about avian flu, also known as bird flu.

Evanston North Shore Bird Club has received questions requesting advice about whether to take down feeders. Based on current data and information, if you are feeding only songbirds, it is safe to keep feeding birds.

Bird flu affects shorebirds and waterbirds such as ducks, geese, terns, gulls and raptors (because they may eat infected birds), as well as chickens. Pigeons may also be affected, although research is inconclusive.

Typical resident songbirds at feeders in northeastern Illinois include goldfinch, house finch, cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, mourning doves, woodpeckers and nuthatches. People often attract migrating orioles, which are also songbirds, with oranges and grape jelly.

If your bird feeders are attracting only songbirds, are located away from streams and ponds that attract shorebirds and waterbirds, and you are not keeping chickens, then, according to Cornell All About Birds and Wild Birds Unlimited in Glenview, your birds are safe at your feeders.

However, there is no need to keep feeders going in the summer when there is plenty of food around. There is a need for sanitation no matter the season. Cleaning bird feeders and bird baths regularly will protect the birds you are attracting to your home.

For the latest news about bird safety and bird feeders, check the website: Online bird guide, bird ID help, life history, bird sounds from Cornell All About Birds.

Libby Hill

Hill is a lifelong lover of birds with a master’s degree in geography and environmental studies from Northeastern Illinois University. She has been active in the Evanston North Shore Bird Club for years. A past President, she is currently the Program and Field Trip Chair.

Libby Hill

Libby Hill is the author of "The Chicago River: a Natural and Unnatural History. She has been writing about birds and trees and Evanston's natural history for the Roundtable since 2004.

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  1. My neighbor keeps hens, whose eggs she generously shares. She’s meticulous about caring for her birds. Should I eat the eggs? Can I continue with my songbird feeders?

  2. 90% of the birds using my feeder are sparrows and wrens, yet these aren’t even mentioned. This puts the usefulness of this article in question despite it being well intended.