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Experts says it’s best to discourage ducks from nesting near your home

It’s nesting season for quail, doves and ducklings. But wildlife experts say it’s best not to let birds and their babies take up residence around your house.

“There's a lot of different reasons for that,” said wildlife veterinarian Dr. Anne Justice-Allen of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “One is the safety of the nest and the nestlings.”

To minimize the dangers posed by human environments and pets, Justice-Allen recommends discouraging nesting by clearing cattails, reeds and spaces beneath shrubs along water features.

Birds that still wander onto your property can simply be shooed away or scooped out of a pool with a net.

“And if they don't take off — if they're an injured bird or a sick bird — the best thing to do is to call one of our wildlife rehabilitation facilities,” she said.

Game and Fish hosts an interactive map on its website that shows the locations of wildlife rehabilitators in Arizona. If they can’t help, the department also maintains a 24 hour dispatch line at 623-236-7201.

“The public should not try and interact with an injured animal, bird or otherwise; it's something that can be dangerous, both for the individual who's not experienced as well as the animal.”

Game and Fish has seen outbreaks and deaths from avian influenza over the past eight to nine months. Most recently, several California condors died in the Vermillion cliffs area in northern Arizona. Raptors like Cooper's hawks, red-tailed hawk, owls and vultures are susceptible to the virus, but it’s not common in “backyard bird feeder” birds, like doves, sparrows, finches and grackles.

The highly virulent disease is endemic to waterfowl, however, which means ducks and geese can infect pets and, in rare cases, humans, although encounters with infected birds are unlikely.

“The risk to people and to pets is minimal for most circumstances,” said Justice-Allen. “For pets, the biggest concern would be if they eat an infected bird — say, you know, there's a dead duck or something in the backyard and the cat decides to eat part of that.”

She added that it's much better to keep cats indoors.

“They can really cause problems for backyard birds, rodents and our little lizards and reptiles that are running around” she said.

Indoor cats typically live longer and are exposed to fewer diseases.

Typically, “diseases” means feline leukemia virus, rabies or feline immunodeficiency virus. But zoonotic spillover fact that avian flu can “jump” to mammals too. Outside of Arizona, it’s been found in bobcats, foxes, skunks, coyotes and raccoons across the country.

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Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk from 2016 to 2024.