The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota is now recommending that people pause things that bring birds together in groups, like bird feeders.

"This would be for the next couple of months, until avian flu in wildlife decreases," Dr. Victoria Hall, executive director of the Raptor Center, said in an e-mail announcement Wednesday.

"It's just not worth the risk when there are so many unknowns about the role songbirds might play during this unprecedented outbreak," she said.

The center had earlier thought that precaution was not necessary. But the center has seen unprecedented outbreaks involving raptors as the bird flu situation continues to evolve.

Feeder birds can carry the virus without signs of infection, which they can then spread.

You can find out more about the bird flu and bird feeder recommendations at the center's website. The Raptor Center is encouraging people to not touch any injured or dead wildlife they see. They should call the Raptor Center (612-624-4745) or the Department of Natural Resources (651-296-6157).

The Minnesota DNR, in turn, asked for this information to be forwarded to the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union's MOU-net electronic mailing list Friday afternoon: "The DNR is aware of the recommendations put forth by the Raptor Center with UMN and our own guidance, at this time, has not changed. We have not received any confirmed reports of songbirds affected by this strain of avian influenza. DNR guidance aligns with recommendations by the USGS National Wildlife Health Center and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the leading authorities on this disease.

"We do recommend individuals clean their bird feeders regularly, as this helps protect birds against other infections, such as salmonella. Our best practices for cleaning bird feeders are available on our website:"

To report sick or dead birds to the DNR and for additional information:

Wild birds infected with avian flu have been reported in 22 states, according to a map published online by the magazine OutdoorLife. Infections have been reported in Canada as well. So far, Minnesota has no reports of infected wild birds. States to the south along the Mississippi River flyway include reports of three in Iowa and 24 in Missouri.

If you take down your feeders, now would be a good time to clean your bird feeders so they're ready when it's OK to rehang them. Stay tuned.