Precautionary measures implemented to protect birds at North Carolina Aquariums

Published 2:23 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2022

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In response to cases of avian influenza recently found in eastern North Carolina wild birds, precautionary measures will be put in place to protect popular ambassador birds at the North Carolina Aquariums.

“Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect several species of birds, including domestic poultry and wild birds. This disease, if spread, could have devastating effects on poultry farms (both commercial and backyard flocks) and birds living in zoos, aquariums and wildlife centers,” said Emily F. Christiansen, DVM, MPH, Dipl. ACZM, chief veterinarian of North Carolina Aquariums.

A press release from NC Aquariums stated that visitors to the North Carolina Aquariums at Roanoke Island, Pine Knoll Shores and Fort Fisher will notice the following temporary measures to protect the bald eagles and the screech owl from contact with wild birds:

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– On Roanoke Island, Napoleon the ambassador Eastern screech owl will temporarily be unavailable for public programs.

– At Pine Knoll Shores, the bald eagles Uwohali and Shagoie Watha will be moved from their open-air habitat, Eagle Landing, and cared for behind the scenes.

– The aquarium team at Fort Fisher is caring for rescued bald eagle Maverick away from his habitat.

The other bird species in the NC Aquariums’ care are safely protected within their outdoor habitats behind the scenes or indoor habitats that separate them from the public, stated the release. “To further protect all bird species onsite, the Aquariums have increased biosecurity for staff, including restricting access to birds to specific teams who work with the Aquariums’ feathered animals,” the release continued.

The aquariums are working closely with the North Carolina Aquarium Division veterinary team, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine when they can safely return the eagles to their public habitats.

“All the birds at the Aquariums are healthy and are not showing any signs of the disease, which include sneezing, coughing, lack of energy and poor appetite,” stated the release.

“Our visitors really treasure these beautiful birds at our Aquariums, and we are taking every precaution to ensure they stay safe and healthy, so they can quickly return to their habitats for everyone to enjoy,” said Maylon White, division director of North Carolina Aquariums.

No human infections from this virus have been found in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says transmission of the virus from birds to humans is very rare and considers the risk to the public very low. For more information, visit CDC Information on Avian Influenza.

For those who raise domestic poultry or are around wild birds, more information about caring for flocks and recommended steps to increase biosecurity is available at USDA Defend the Flock.

The public can report sick or dying wild birds to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission helpline at 866-318-2401, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Report sick or dying birds in human care to a local veterinarian, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Science Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250 or the North Carolina Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at 919-733-3986. For more information, visit NCDA&CS.