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Dead Birds and West Nile Virus

Since West Nile virus is deadly to certain kinds of birds, especially crows and blue jays, reporting and testing of dead birds has historically been a way to detect WNV activity in a given area.

In recent years, however, tracking and testing dead birds has become less useful for monitoring West Nile virus activity because so few birds are still susceptible to fatal WNV infection. Consequently, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health discontinued routine laboratory testing of dead wild birds for West Nile virus in April 2009.

The department's current surveillance activities focus primarily on mosquito collection and testing, a more reliable predictor of potential risk of WNV infection to humans and domestic animals.

For more information, read the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Frequently Asked Questions About Dead Birds and West Nile Virus.

Disposing of a Dead Bird

People should avoid touching a live or dead bird or their droppings with their bare hands since harmful germs could be present. However, there is no evidence that a person can get WNV from handling infected birds. West Nile virus can only be transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Public Property

To report a dead bird on public property in Cambridge, call the Cambridge Department of Public Works, 349-4800.

Private Property

A dead bird found on private property in Cambridge should be disposed of by the owner or management. Rubber gloves should be worn when handling bird carcasses.

Last reviewed on July 11, 2014



For general questions about West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis, please call 617-665-3838. 


Cambridge Public Health Department
119 Windsor Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
617-665-3826 (main)
617-665-3800 (main)
617-665-3888 (fax)
617-643-0744 (TTY)

Hours: Monday-Friday:
8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
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Claude-Alix Jacob
Chief Public Health Officer



Cambirdge Health Alliance

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