A bird lands in the water at Scarborough Marsh Nature Center. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

SCARBOROUGH — The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife put out a statement on June 24 responding to abnormally high reports of dead and dying birds on Maine coastal beaches including Scarborough beaches. 

In the statement, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said that there is currently an outbreak of Highly Pathogen Avian Influenza also known as HPAI or bird flu. Highly Pathogen Avian Influenza is a respiratory disease that is caused by an infection with a type of influenza virus. Wild birds, such as ducks, gulls, and shorebirds, can carry and spread these viruses but may show no signs of illness. 

“HPAI was recently detected in Maine in wild birds,” said Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Information & Education Sierra Jackson. “The disease was found in the wild in black ducks sampled in Washington County. HPAI was also detected in five domestic bird flocks (non-poultry) in Knox, Lincoln, and York Counties. HPAI is highly contagious in birds and can decimate domestic flocks. All domestic flocks with HPAI were euthanized to halt the spread of HPAI, and DACF has implemented a 10-kilometer radius surveillance area where these infected birds were located. The Maine CDC is monitoring those in contact with the infected flocks out of an abundance of caution. HPAI is a respiratory disease of birds caused by influenza A viruses. “ 

The Avian flu has killed more birds, including domestic birds and resident’s wild birds, in the state this year than in years past, according to Jackson.  

“Any person with domestic birds such as chickens, turkeys, ducks or geese should keep them contained and separate from wild birds in order to prevent any possible spread of HPAI. Eliminate any outdoor food sources that may come in to contact with wild birds,” said Jackson. 

The Maine CDC has asked residents and visitors to not touch or remove any dead or dying birds that people encounter on beaches or any other public property. CDC staff said they are aware of the issue and are working as quickly as possible to remove them. Birds that are showing symptoms of being injured or sick should be left alone.


“Birds found dead on private land and/or beaches can be removed by the homeowner at their discretion,” said the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in the statement. “If removed, we are encouraging the use of masks and gloves when doing so. The dead bird should be buried or can be bagged and placed into the trash.” 

Birds are not the only animal that has been affected by the virus. An unusual number of seals are becoming stranded and dying off Maine this summer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed that samples from four Maine seals tested positive for the virus. 

Outbreaks of the virus have been increasing, there have been nine detections so far in Maine and two in York County. The two birds include a Canadian goose and a bald eagle. The avian flu viruses do not normally make humans sick but human infections with avian flu viruses have occurred. People who have regular contact with poultry or wild birds are most at risk. Anyone feeding birds should do so with care. While many bird feeder species may not be prime carriers, supplemental feed that could attract wild ducks, geese and turkeys could carry HPAI, particularly with homeowners that have domestic poultry. 

Those who see a sick, injured, or dead seal in Maine should call the Maine Marine Animal Reporting Hotline at 800-532-9551. To report seal stranding’s south of Maine, call the NOAA Fisheries Stranding Hotline at 866-755-6622. If an eagle is found, call Maine Police dispatch at 207-624-7076. 





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