Dead Birds Used As Early Warning System For West Nile Virus

Release date: 
May 2

Cotati, CA - The Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District (District) urges the public to report dead birds to the West Nile virus hotline at 1-877-968-2473 or online at  “A number of species of birds are highly susceptible to, and die from West Nile virus” explained Piper Kimball, Scientific Programs Director for the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito & Vector Control District. “Testing these dead birds for the virus helps us to determine areas where the virus may be present, prompting surveillance and control measures to ensure the protection of public health” stated Kimball.

Residents who find a dead bird on their property can call the dead bird hotline to have the bird picked up and tested. Not all birds are suitable for testing - especially if they have maggots, or appear to have been dead for a substantial amount of time. Staff at the hotline can also answer questions about the handling of dead birds and other related questions.

West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on an infected bird. Symptoms of WNV range from mild flu-like conditions, such as fever, headache, and nausea to a stiff neck, restlessness, stupor, delirium, and convulsions.  Most cases are mild; however, fatalities can occur in extreme cases.

While West Nile virus activity has not been detected in Marin or Sonoma Counties this year, it has been detected in the Counties of Sacramento, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and Riverside. In October of 2011, two mosquito samples tested positive for West Nile virus in Sonoma County.

Residents are urged to protect themselves and their families from mosquitoes by following these simple tips:

  • Be aware that mosquitoes are most active during dusk and dawn.
  • When engaging in outdoor activities, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and apply insect repellant according to label instructions. The Centers for Disease Control recommend using an effective repellents containing one of these active ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Screen all windows and make sure the screens are in good repair.
  • Cover septic tanks tightly and screen roof vent pipes.
  •  Identify and eliminate all sources of standing water around your property.
  • Always report mosquito problems online at or call 1.800.231.3236
  • Report dead birds at or call 1.800.968-2473

For more information regarding mosquitoes and West Nile virus visit:   

The Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District is an independent, special district committed to protecting public health from mosquitoes and mosquito-borne disease. All programs and services are funded through property taxes and provided to all residents in Marin and Sonoma counties. For more information about us please visit our website at