Avian influenza basics for pigeon owners

Quick facts

Avian influenza is harmful to pigeon flocks especially if it’s highly pathogenic. Always report any signs of disease to your state agency or veterinarian. Preventing disease is the best way to keep your flock healthy.

  • Separate your flock from wild birds.

  • Keep your loft clean.

  • Separate new or returning birds from your flock for at least 14 days.

What is avian influenza?

Avian influenza (AI) is a disease that can affect many bird species including pigeons. Waterfowl and shorebirds are natural hosts for the avian influenza virus. These birds will shed the virus, often without showing signs of illness.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is rapidly fatal for poultry. Pigeons with HPAI often have both neurologic (twisted necks) and digestive (greenish diarrhea) signs followed by death. Signs of HPAI in pigeons may be like Paramyxovirus.

Since December 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported confirmed cases of HPAI in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways. These were mostly of the H5N2 subtype and occurred in wild waterfowl and backyard and commercial poultry. View an up-to-date listing of confirmed cases.

HPAI in your pigeons

Each state has an agency to respond to avian influenza cases. Minnesota’s agency is the Board of Animal Health.

If your flock has sudden, high death rates or many birds with neurologic and or digestive signs, contact your veterinarian or the Minnesota Board of Animal Health right away.

The Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory (MPTL) works with the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) to conduct and coordinate testing for AI.

You can contact the laboratories at:

  • MPTL: (320) 231-5170

  • VDL: 612-625-8787

Preventing disease

You can prevent disease in your loft by practicing biosecurity. To learn more,  watch our pigeon loft biosecurity video.

Carol Cardona, Extension poultry virologist and Wayne Martin, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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