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Avian flu may be risk to falcons

January 14, 2015

Dear Oregon Falconers

The recent outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) continues to be found in a broader distribution across Oregon and our neighboring states. Most recently, surveillance has identified the HPAI H5N2 virus in a hunter shot mallard on the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area near Eugene. However, we suspect the HPAI strains (H5N2 and H5N8) to be in wild waterfowl throughout the state. California has also documented the virus in waterfowl and it has been found as far west as Davis County, Utah. In addition, additional falconry birds in Idaho died following consumption of suspected infected waterfowl. To date, we have not seen indications that the virus causes sickness or death in wild waterfowl and no human cases of influenza from these virus strains have been reported anywhere in the world.

With this information, we continue to advise falconers to refrain from hunting wild waterfowl or feeding their birds wild waterfowl meat or organ tissue. Since we are not certain when these virus strains arrived in North America from migratory birds, it is also advised to err on the side of caution when feeding recently stored frozen waterfowl to raptors. The clinical signs observed in affected raptors may include feather fluffing, rhythmic side to side head movements, incoordination or irregular movements, head held at an angle, loss of appetite, loss of balance and motor control, and tremors. These signs are related to neurological disease caused by the virus. If you have a bird exhibiting these signs, we advise that you contact your veterinarian or give us a call at the Wildlife Health Lab.

If you have questions concerning the details of this HPAI viral outbreak or want to discuss the health of your birds, feel free to call us toll-free at 866-968-2600.

Colin Gillin
State Wildlife Veterinarian
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Wildlife Health and Population Laboratory
7118 NE Vandenberg Ave.
Corvallis, OR 97330

December 31, 2014

Oregon Falconers

With the current outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Northwestern Washington and Winston, Oregon, ODFW and our federal partners are increasing surveillance for additional cases of HPAI in wild birds both from field surveillance of hunter harvested birds and from cases encountered by wildlife rehabilitators of avian species. The 2 HPAI virus strains currently circulating (H5N2 and H5N8), have not shown noticeable disease symptoms in wild waterfowl at this point in time. However, one of the Washington index cases involved a gyrfalcon that succumbed to HPAI after feeding on an infected wild duck. Additionally, we are working very closely with State Veterinarian, Brad Leamaster and his staff at ODA as this virus strain has the greatest impact on Oregon’s poultry producers and will affect exports nationally and internationally and ultimately impact this sector of our state economy.

Neither strain has caused disease in humans in Europe or Asia or the US however, heightened biosecurity should be practiced to reduce your exposure to potential zoonotic avian viruses by isolating sick birds, providing them with appropriate veterinary support, and applying good sanitation and decontamination protocols if you suspect avian influenza infection in one of your birds.

As part of our standard surveillance protocol, we ask that you report any illness or infections in your birds of prey, particularly if you feel disease was transmitted from an avian prey species. You can reach our vet staff here at the Wildlife Health Lab using our toll-free number 866-968-2600. My direct cell phone number is 541-231-9271. The avian influenza virus can be transmitted to birds of prey from all ducks (including sea ducks), geese, swans, seabirds (alcids, fulmar, cormorants, grebes) cranes and herons. If you suspect your bird is sick, one of our staff  can sample your bird for exposure to AI.  In a sick bird, you may see viral symptoms that include edema or swelling of the head, nasal discharge, depression or other signs of illness. Any corvid, gull, raptor, owl, or avian species that would potentially scavenge or predate upon/eat waterfowl/seabirds could be candidates for infection involving AI.

As guidance, we are suggesting that falconers avoid hunting wild avian species and particularly waterfowl during this HPAI outbreak. We presently do not know the full extent or distribution of the HPAI strains in Oregon, but we are conducting active statewide surveillance with our USDA, USGS, and USFWS partners throughout Oregon and in surrounding states. We will send you periodic email updates to relay information on the surveillance efforts and guidance indicating the risk of infection has declined from wild avian prey species.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at one of the numbers above. Thanks for your help and a Happy New Year and a prosperous 2015 to you from all the wildlife staff at ODFW.

Colin Gillin
State Wildlife Veterinarian
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Wildlife Health and Population Laboratory
7118 NE Vandenberg Ave.
Corvallis, OR 97330

Thank you for your interest in falconry in Oregon.

Becoming a licensed falconer is a rigorous process that requires substantial dedication, patience, and time on the part of the falconer. It is a 365-day-a-year commitment, and therefore not a sport that can be undertaken casually. However, the restrictions and requirements are intended to insure that only knowledgeable and dedicated individuals are licensed.

Several steps are involved before a first-time falconry license can be issued. Please review the information and requirements as it is important for prospective falconers to be aware of the involvement necessary to participate.

What’s New?

Amerocan Kestral

American Kestrel
- Photo by Kathy Munsel, ODFW-

Important: Reporting Requirements

Federal regulations require all licensed falconers to report all acquisitions, captures, purchases, gifting, sales, transfers releases, banding, escapes, losses by death, and all other changes in status and possession of falconry birds MUST be reported to the USFWS by online filing of Form 3-186A.

Instructions for Federal Form 3-186A (pdf)

Important Changes in 2012

Beginning in January, 2012, the US Fish and Wildlife Service Form 3-186A, Migratory Bird Acquisition and Disposition Report (the form you use for reporting of raptor acquisitions, transfers, dispositions, etc.) will change to an electronic filing system. You will no longer submit a paper version of the 3-186A but will complete and submit the information on-line. We are here to assist you with any questions you may have during this transition.

  What is Falconry?

Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
- Photo by Mark Nebeker, ODFW -

Falconry is caring for and training raptors for pursuit of wild game, and hunting wild game with raptors. Falconry includes the taking of raptors from the wild to use in the sport; and caring for, training, and transporting raptors held for falconry. (50 CFR § 21.3) 

Raptor means birds of prey, including hawks, eagles, falcons and owls.

Falconry was known as the “Sport of Kings” and dates back over four thousand years in the Middle East, Europe, North Africa and Asia. It is the oldest field sport known to mankind. This ancient art is a very demanding endeavor, requiring a serious dedication of time and energy from the falconer.

Since World War II, falconry has dramatically increased in popularity in the United States and is legal in every state except Hawaii. Farsighted conservation-minded American falconers encouraged and helped formulate federal and state regulations by which all falconers must abide.

Raptors are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 as well as other state laws. The conservation of all migratory birds is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and individual states. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, under strict regulations, makes allowances for the sport of falconry.

To obtain a falconry license in Oregon requires an aspiring falconer to study for and pass a written exam, have falconry equipment and housing facilities reaching or exceeding a defined standard inspected, and serve a minimum of two years at an apprentice level under a currently licensed Oregon falconer.

After an individual has been licensed by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, they can engage in the sport of falconry with a wild-caught or captive raised raptor.

  Falconry in the State of Oregon

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
- Photo by Kathy Munsel-

All activities regarding possession of raptors, licenses and permits are governed by federal regulation under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918, as amended). In Oregon, falconry regulations were first adopted in 1977. General revisions and amendments were made in 1990, 2002 and 2011. Amendments specifically addressing peregrine falcon nestling and fledgling “take” have been made annually from 2008 to 2011.

In August, 2011, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted administrative rule amendments to OAR Chapter 635, Division 55, Falconry Licenses, Permits and Requirements. The new rules which were approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in November 2011, qualified Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for certain delegated responsibilities to regulate falconry within the national framework and removed the need for a separate federal falconry license in Oregon.

As of January, 2012, 25 states have been approved and certified for compliance by the USFWS.

It is very important for people practicing falconry in Oregon to be familiar with both Oregon Division 55 (pdf) rules and Federal 50 CFR 21.29 (pdf) regulations. The Oregon falconry rules incorporate the federal regulations by reference and also provide extra specificity and/or are more restrictive in some areas.

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