Bird handling during the COVID-19 pandemic

Recommendations from the Canadian Bird Banding Office

Updated January 2021

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) issues permits for bird-handling activities including bird banding (and associated activities), rehabilitation, aviculture, and relocation. These guidelines apply to bird handling authorized by ECCC on scientific permits to capture and handle migratory birds.

During the pandemic, and before proceeding with any bird handling activity, you must determine if your operation will comply with all public health and/or occupational health guidance from federal, provincial/territorial, and local authorities within the relevant jurisdictions, as well as any institutional policies regarding field activities.

Before proceeding, consider if bird handling at this time is critical to your research or if it can be postponed. Consider also whether you are still able to ensure a high level of bird safety and data quality while reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Should you deem that you are able to continue, please note that access to some federal, provincial, territorial and municipal lands has been suspended, and so verify that you have current agreement to access your field locations including private lands. Refer to your provincial or territorial and municipal authority website for the most recent information for your area.

Current scientific knowledge indicates that it is unlikely that birds would be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, some mammals are susceptible to the virus and viral replication, recombination and transmission are possible in some species including domestic cats, ferrets, Egyptian fruit bats and mink. Extra care is needed to avoid the risk of infecting mammals with the SARS-COV-2 virus, especially as it might then spread through a wild population.  Bird banding activities that have a high likelihood of mammal interactions should follow strict protocols to protect wildlife or discontinue operations. For more information on susceptible species visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website.

Recommendations for handling birds during the pandemic:

Recommendations for interactions with mammals:

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