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Omaha's Woodmen Life Tower peregrine falcon dies of bird flu

Peregrine Falcon
Posted at 2:49 PM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 15:49:53-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — One of the members of a falcon family that lives atop the Woodmen Life tower in downtown Omaha tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), also known as bird flu. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission announced that the female peregrine falcon died April 18.

The falcon, an adult female named Chayton, and others lived in a nest box that is monitored by a live EarthCam streamed feed that is accessible here. It was said to have been observed behaving strangely on the stream before its death.

Peregrine falcons often consume other birds and may have become infected with HPAI after eating prey that was contaminated. A spate of bird flu infections across the Midwest has had poultry farmers and domestic flock owners on high alert, causing some to move their flocks indoors. Zoos with aviaries, including Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, have moved birds inside and restricted public access in an abundance of caution to prevent the disease from spreading.

HPAI is often fatal to domestic birds but not always to wild ones. It is a highly contagious virus and can survive without direct bird-to-bird contact, as it can spread through a bird's nasal secretion and droppings, meaning equipment, clothing and even dust that is in direct contact with the virus is enough to transmit it elsewhere.

Bird flu has resulted in the killing of millions of chickens and turkeys in Nebraska so far this year, from mixed backyard flocks of 50-or-less to commercial flocks of more than one million at a time. It has been found in Dixon, Merrick, Butler, Holt and Scotts Bluffs Counties prior to the Douglas County peregrine falcon's confirmed contamination.

Symptoms of bird flu could include birds coughing or sneezing, acting lethargic, showing unusual swelling, refusing food and water or producing weak-shelled or misshapen eggs. The Nebraska Game and Parks office asks that anyone who observes birds behaving oddly or with these symptoms, including an unusual bird death, should report it to the USDA or the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, which have been the entities in charge of investigating all of the previous cases of avian influenza in the state.

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