Avian flu wreaks more havoc in Colorado egg layers and wild birds

Worst-ever outbreak leads to slaughter of 6 million-plus chickens and has killed enough eagles and other raptors to raise wildlife fears

Michael Booth, Tamara Chuang and Joshua Perry
The Colorado Sun
A female adult northern harrier feeds on one of at least five dead birds found on the ice at Stearns Lake near Broomfield on Jan. 4, 2023. It's not clear if these dead birds had avian flu, but scenes like these and the potential for spreading the devastating virus are playing out across Colorado, wildlife officials and raptor watchers warn.
Dana Bove, Front Range Eagle Studies/Special to the Colorado Sun

Colorado’s worst-ever avian flu outbreak has now resulted in nearly 6.4 million poultry deaths and is increasingly crossing over into wild birds and killing bald eagles and other precious raptors in what wildlife watchers call “the stuff of bad dreams.” 

The mass slaughter of egg-laying flocks has decimated the commercial egg market in the state, with every large producer now affected after a spread of the outbreak in December. Wildlife officials say they are overwhelmed by reports of carcasses in the wild and have limited testing of dead birds in order to concentrate efforts in the most impacted areas. 

Colorado agriculture and wildlife officials say they have no way to stop the flu’s spread among migratory birds, and expect waves of deaths to continue through early winter until birds settle into winter grounds. Mass die-offs are likely to pick up again in the spring as flocks of snow geese, Canada geese and other common birds head back north. 

Wildlife officials mourned the first death of a tagged and tracked bald eagle last month, from among Colorado’s resurgent but still tenuous population of nesting bald eagles totaling 250 to 300 pairs statewide. 


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