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Communicable and Environmental Disease

West Nile Virus: Bird Images and Descriptions

The Tennessee Department of Health began accepting dead birds on May 1, 2002 to conduct surveillance activities. Please note that only crows and blue jays will be accepted for testing. All other birds, such as grackles, starlings and raptures will NOT be tested.

Below are examples of the types of birds that will and will not be accepted for WNV testing. Click on photo* to enlarge.

Eligible Birds for Testing

Adult crows are about 17 to 21 inches in length, while juvenile crows are about 10 inches in length, or about the length of a person's forearm. Juvenile crows have brownish-black feathers. Crows are all black including feathers, beak, legs and feet. The crow's nostrils are covered with bristles.
Blue Jay  
Blue jays are 10 inches long, and have a black sturdy bill, and blue crest. They have a black eye line and breast band and a grayish-white throat and under parts. The wings are bright blue with black bars and white patches. Blue jays have a long blue tail with black bars and white corners and dark legs.

Non-Eligible Birds for Testing

Grackles are all black, smaller than crows, but larger than a robin (11 to 13 inches). The head has a purple (or green) iridescent sheen; the rest of the body is black or brown-black. The eyes are yellow, but this may be missing after death. They can also be distinguished from crows because their tail feathers are nearly as long as the bird's body.
Starlings are robin-sized birds with black spotted feathers, yellow beaks and yellow feet.
Raptors - All hawks and owls  

*Photos courtesy of the Illinois Department of Public Health