Feeding fowl runs afoul of City directive

Stratford asks to avoid feeding birds, water fowl amid spring bird flu 

  • Community   Thursday, June 9, 2022   Emily Stewart

The City of Stratford is asking residents and tourists to not feed the local geese, ducks, and swans due to a presence of avian influenza (H5N1) in the spring.

A city press release from May 20 announced that one of Stratford’s young swans passed away and died from avian influzenza, also known as bird flu. Several turkey vultures across the Avon River and a bald eagle in St. Marys also died from the disease.

Quinn Mallott, Stratford’s manager of parks, forestry, and cemetery, said that so far, no other birds have died from the bird flu. Because of the outbreak, however, feeding the water fowl is discouraged, as the birds will gather together if they are fed by humans.

“That's what we're trying to eliminate. Just in case one of the birds do have a flu. We just don't want the ease of transmission or a gathering to spread this transmission,” Mallott said.

The city also asked merchants to stop selling swan food this year to reduce spread.

"We may look at this as an ongoing thing, but at least for this year if they could stop,” Mallott said. “It doesn't look good if they're selling the food at downtown merchants or facilities that are rented out by the city, and we're asking people not to feed the water fowl.”

If a bird is found dead on a private property, contact the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative’s Ontario regional centre immediately at (866) 673-4781 or the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) via the Stratford Perth Humane Society at (519) 273-6600. Any dead swans or city birds should be reported to the City of Stratford at (519) 271-0250, ext. 246 or the Stratford Police Service’s non-emergency after hours line at (519) 271-4141. 

Anyone who finds a dead, injured, or sick bird should not touch them. Those with bird feeders should also wash the feeders weekly with a diluted bleach solution then rinsing and drying completely before using. 

Residents and tourists should also watch for bird flu signs in birds such as coughing, sneezing, gasping for air, diarrhea, swelling around the eyes, head, and neck, confusion, and poor coordination. 

Along with signs reminding people to not feed the birds, city staff are also telling people in-person if they see it happen. Particularly, if someone is dumping a large bag of food out to feed the birds. 

“We're finding people are obliging. We're not seeing a lot of heavy feeding as we have in the past,” Mallot said.