Last modified: Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Wildlife disease in Utah

Pigeon paramyxovirus 1 in birds

Avian paramyxovirus type 1 in pigeons (Pigeon paramyxovirus 1, PPMV 1) is a viral infection of pigeons and doves. Sick birds may shed virus in feces and other discharges. The virus can survive for several weeks in the environment during cool weather, and is transmitted from bird to bird via direct contact or through a contaminated feed and water.

Affected birds may exhibit lethargy, diarrhea, twisting of the head and neck, circling, labored breathing, and have ocular and nasal discharge. Birds often die within a few days.

Pigeon paramyxovirus has been documented in Eurasian collared doves in several locations across Utah since 2015. The most recent outbreak occurred in Salt Lake County in August of 2018.

Domestic poultry

Some strains of avian paramyxovirus can cause disease in domestic poultry. Natural transmission of pigeon paramyxovirus to poultry has not been documented in the U.S., however, as a precaution it is advised to prevent contact between poultry and wild birds. Transmission of pigeon paramyxovirus to mammals has not been documented.

How to disinfect feeders

Multiple diseases can be transmitted between wild birds at bird feeders, including pigeon paramyxovirus.

To reduce spread of the disease among birds, please clean and disinfect bird feeders and bird baths regularly.

Clean feeders once a week using a bleach solution (for normal cleaning, use one part bleach to nine parts water). Rinse thoroughly with clean water, allow feeders to dry before refilling and remove waste grains from below feeders (they harbor disease-causing bacteria, viruses and fungi that can attract rodents).

If birds are dying, use a stronger solution (one part bleach to three parts water), clean the feeders more frequently (every one to three days) and remove waste grains daily. You should also consider discontinuation of feeding for seven to 10 days.

Watering stations (bird baths) should receive fresh water daily and be cleaned and disinfected weekly.

Other precautions

Practice good biosecurity around domestic poultry and avoid contact between wild birds and poultry. Make sure your bird feeders are not over or in close proximity to backyard poultry flocks or pens. If you have handled sick pigeons or doves, disinfect your shoes and wash your clothing as a precaution in order to prevent inadvertent spread of the disease, and avoid immediate contact with domestic poultry. Prevent contact between dead wildlife and domestic pets. Always use gloves if picking up dead birds, wash hands afterwards and dispose dead birds in heavy-duty plastic bags in the land fill. Hunters should avoid shooting birds showing abnormal behavior. As with all wild game, hunters should properly clean and prepare doves and avoid consuming any game that appears abnormal. Wear rubber or latex gloves when cleaning birds, clean (soap and water) and disinfect knives (10% household bleach solution -- 9 parts water:1 part bleach), and cook the meat properly. If you observe large die-offs (more than five birds within a few days in the same area) please contact your regional Utah Division of Wildlife office.