KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is recommending residents temporarily remove bird feeders because of concerns about the spread of bird flu, but some feel the suggestion is overly cautious.

An increasing number of cases in Michigan and neighboring states spurred the recommendation, according to DNR spokesperson Ed Golder.

“One easy way the public can help to reduce the potential spread of the disease is to remove outdoor bird feeders. There’s not a lot of widespread recommendations from state agencies like ours to do that yet but temporary removal out of an abundance of caution could be helpful,” Golder said.

If you own birds that are at high risk — like chickens — the DNR says removing feeders is important to reduce the chance of transmission.

“Domestic birds and some wild birds like waterfowl, raptors, scavengers, are highly susceptible,” Golder said.

The DNR acknowledges more research is needed to better understand the virus and how it spreads.

“Songbirds, the kind of birds you typically see at bird feeders, are less susceptible to highly pathogenic avian influenza and are unlikely to play a significant role in spreading the virus,” Golder said. 

The temporary removal recommendation is causing some confusion for customers at stores like Wild Birds Unlimited in Kentwood.

Laura Rancour, who owns the location, said the virus is a lower risk to most birds that eat at the feeders and the experts the company have consulted say feeding can be done safely.

“Our customers really want to do the right thing but they’re not exactly sure what that is,” Rancour said. “We just recommend that you do it in a responsible manner by always washing your feeder, cleaning it with bleach, washing your bird bath, cleaning up underneath your feeders.”

The Wild Bird Feeding Institute provides guidelines on how to take precautions.

The sight of birds in the backyard is something Eaaron Henderson-King looks forward to, but the DNR recommendation has him questioning his decision to put the feeder back up.

“We actually did remove it because we had heard the avian flu was in Michigan,” Henderson-King said.

He does not own chickens or other susceptible birds and is trying to figure out the best approach.

“If it’s a case that doing something might harm them, I’m perfectly willing to wait,” Henderson-King said.