The Audubon Bird Research Email Newsletter provides you with monthly updates outlining the work we are doing as part of the scientific research initiative at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. You will also receive emails when we are in need of volunteers for projects. Suggestions and questions regarding the newsletter can be sent to Dr. Charles Clarkson, Audubon Director of Avian Research, email@example.com.
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As many of you have heard, a highly virulent strain of Avian Influenza has made its way to southern New England. The strain, often referred to as “Avian Flu” is more appropriately called Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and is a very serious virus primarily affecting wild birds in the Anatidae family (ducks, geese and swans). Although the disease is often not fatal to wild birds, it is easily transmitted to domestic chickens, turkeys, ducks and quails, where it is responsible for a nearly 100% mortality rate.
On 2 March, the virus was detected in Connecticut and on 3 March, it was detected in Massachusetts. The likelihood is high that the virus is already present in Rhode Island, particularly as wild waterfowl that act as carriers for the virus are transiting the Atlantic Flyway, which is a heavily used migratory corridor that includes our state.
While the threat to humans from the virus is low, the likelihood of transmission from wild to captive birds is a major concern. If you are a poultry farmer or a backyard chicken owner, you should heed the following safety protocols:
- Keep your domestic birds away from wild birds to the extent possible. Do not allow domestic and wild birds to feed together or interact.
- Keep your chicken coops and runs clean by replacing bedding often and providing fresh clean food/drinking water.
- Any clothing worn when interacting with domestic or wild birds should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- All sick/dying domestic birds should be reported to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM) by calling 401-222-2781 (or 401-222-3070 after hours)
- All sick/dying wild birds should be reported to the RI DEM by calling 401-789-0281.
The ultimate goal is to identify and eradicate the disease as quickly as possible once it is detected. Please do your part and alert the authorities if you come across sick or dead wild and domestic birds.
I certainly hope you all enjoyed the non-breeding season surveys across the Audubon refuges. I am so very thankful to all of you that contributed data and I am looking forward to sharing the results of the data analysis in the near future.
Now it is time to shift our focus to the nocturnal species that breed in the Ocean State. A number of owl and nightjar species breed throughout Rhode Island and we will be conducting surveys across our refuges to determine which species are present on which refuges. I hope you will join us to survey these cryptic and often overlooked birds!
Nocturnal surveys will commence in April and Zoom training sessions on the survey protocol will be offered on the following dates and times:
Wednesday, 23 March at 6 pm
Wednesday, 30 March at 6 pm
Monday, 4 April at 6 pm
Please email the Director of Avian Research at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for a Zoom meeting and you will be provided with the link. I look forward to walking the woods at night with all of you!
- Acoustic monitoring stations will be established in a number of our properties that are currently closed to the public by mid-April. These stations will continuously monitor the soundscape to determine which species use these parcels during periods of spring migration as stopover habitat.
- A number of grant applications have been submitted to gain additional funding for the Avian Research Initiative. If procured, these grants will be used to further our collaboration with other entities in the state, including universities. In addition, funds may be used to purchase a MOTUS tracking tower to be deployed at our headquarters, Powder Mill Ledges. This tower will be used to detect birds that have been fitted with radio transmitter tags. Both local-scale movements by breeding birds and migratory movements of birds using Audubon properties as stopover habitat will be detected by the tower and will be used to inform our management and conservation goals.
- In the April Newsletter, details on breeding season surveys will be released and additional Zoom training sessions will be announced. Data collection for the 2022 breeding season will commence in May. I look forward to getting out and surveying our breeding bird communities with all of you.