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Extension > Agriculture > Poultry > Avian influenza > Avian influenza basics for Pigeon Owners

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Avian influenza basics for pigeon owners

Carol Cardona and Wayne Martin

In English | In Hmong | In Somali

What is avian influenza?

Avian influenza (AI) is a disease that can affect many species of birds including pigeons. Waterfowl and shorebirds are natural hosts for the virus that causes avian influenza and will shed the virus into their environment while often showing no signs of illness. Some types of avian influenza are called highly pathogenic (HPAI) because these viruses are rapidly fatal for poultry. In pigeons, the clinical signs of highly pathogenic (HPAI) are often a combination of neurological (twisted necks) and digestive (greenish diarrhea) signs followed by death. The signs of HPAI in pigeons may be very similar to Paramyxovirus.

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

What do you do if you suspect your pigeons may have Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza?

Each state has a designated agency to respond to avian influenza cases. In Minnesota, the Board of Animal Health is that agency. If your flock experiences a sudden, high mortality or has a high percentage of birds with neurologic signs and/or greenish diarrhea, please report this immediately to your veterinarian or the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Visit their website, or call the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory (MPTL) at (320) 231-5170. The MPTL cooperates with the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) in St. Paul to conduct and coordinate testing for AI. For more information, contact the VDL at 612-625-8787 or visit their website.

Biosecurity Recommendations

In order for flock owners to keep their birds healthy by preventing disease, biosecurity is a must! Most past introductions of HPAI to pigeons have come from infected poultry flocks (chickens, ducks, turkeys) but they can also come from infected waterfowl (ducks and geese) and gulls that come to Minnesota. Biosecurity for pigeon lofts must include methods to maintain separation from other types of birds. To achieve the best pigeon loft biosecurity, the best approach is to have a written plan that you follow consistently. Some specific suggestions and approaches are provided in: Biosecurity for pigeon lofts.

The USDA provides the following tips on preventing disease in birds which should help in reducing the risk of avian influenza:

  • Keep your distance (separating your loft from sources of disease). Some examples are:
  • Keep it clean (cleaning and disinfecting). Some examples are:
  • Don't haul disease home. Some examples are:
  • Additional resources

    Avian Influenza Home Web Page
    USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Biosecurity Tips
    USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Biosecurity and Avian Influenza
    Minnesota Department of Health
    UMN Extension


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