Reports of an unusual number of dead Eurasian collared doves in yards and around neighborhoods this winter is being attributed to a pigeon virus.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7 staff in Miles City submitted some of the dead birds for testing, and results have come back positive for Pigeon Paramyxovirus PPMV-1.
Paramyxovirus outbreaks most commonly involve Eurasian collared doves and rock doves and can cause numerous deaths. With the increasing populations of Eurasian collared doves in recent years in the United States, reports of deaths in these species are increasing. Infected birds can shed virus particles for six months or more.
It is the same strain being seen in North and South Dakota dove mortalities, according to Brandi Skone, Region 7 non-game biologist.
“The good news is, pets should be OK,” Skone said. “Folks need to make sure they take precautions when handling any dead birds (i.e. use gloves and wash their hands afterward). Other strains of the virus have been shown to cause conjunctivitis (a minor eye infection) in humans, so again folks should take the necessary precautions when disposing of dead carcasses or cleaning up feces or bird baths used by potentially infected pigeons/doves.
“There’s also a chance of chickens and game birds contracting the virus,” Skone said. “Contraction would happen through contact with bodily fluids (i.e. feces, saliva) of infected pigeons/doves. If dead birds are showing up in people’s yards, they should dispose of them, using necessary precautions (gloves, plastic bags). If they’ve got poultry, they could also clean the area with a 10 percent bleach solution.”
Households with backyard poultry who feed wild birds should be vigilant for signs of illness in pigeons and doves, and use separate food and water sources for poultry. Due to the potential of some PPMV-1 strains to cause mortality in poultry, minimizing contact between free-ranging doves and poultry is advised.
Skone said if people continue to find dead doves or pigeons, FWP would like to know about it, including a location and the number of dead birds. People can contact Skone directly at 406-234-0948 or call the FWP office at 406-234-0900.