Take down your bird feeder, it may be killing songbirds warns California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Ed Walsh

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2SpAIC_0YsO9NeY00Pine Siskin. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The state of California is warning that birdfeeders could be killing songbirds here in the San Francisco Bay Area and along the Central Coast. The agency is advising that if you have birdfeeder, take it down.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reports that it and wildlife rehabilitation centers have been inundated with calls from residents who are finding sick or dead finches at bird feeders.

The CDFW notes that most of those reports have come from locations on California’s Central Coast, the San Francisco Bay Area and Sierra Nevada communities. The cause of the bird deaths is Salmonellosis, caused by Salmonella bacteria, according to the CDFW.

The species that is affected is Pine Siskins. The bird is known to winter in California. The CDFW reports that they are the primary species affected by the outbreak. Also affected but in smaller numbers are goldfinches and American goldfinches.

“Salmonellosis occurs periodically in pine siskins in some winters throughout their range. When large numbers of pine siskins congregate, the disease can spread rapidly causing high mortality. Most birds die within 24 hours of infection,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Krysta Rogers, an avian disease specialist.

How birds become infected

Aviation experts say birds become infected with Salmonella when they eat food, drink water or come into contact with objects including bird feeders, perches, and soil contaminated with feces from an infected bird.

“Sick birds often appear weak, have labored breathing, and may sit for prolonged periods with fluffed or ruffled feathers,” the CDFW stated.

“Salmonellosis is almost exclusively reported from locations with bird feeders where birds congregate," the wildlife agency cautioned. "Residents can help reduce disease transmission by removing bird feeders and bird baths. Allowing birds to feed on natural seeds rather than at bird feeders reduces contact between birds and helps slow spread of the disease.

“Residents can report dead birds to CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory using the mortality reporting form, which helps biologists monitor the outbreak. Disposable gloves should be worn and hands should be thoroughly washed after disposing of dead birds, and handling of bird feeders and bird baths. If sick birds are found, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center for advice.”

Aviation experts have long warned that bird feeding can do birds more harm than good, but in this case, the bird feeders themselves may ultimately kill birds.

In a Facebook post, the Santa Rosa based Bird Rescue Center noted that the disease may also impact other animals,

"Animals, birds, reptiles and humans can all get salmonella. It will present differently between species, but it can affect us all. Salmonella is spread through the feces of infected animals, which then gets ingested at communal feeding or drinking areas, or when an animal eats an infected dead body. Do not worry about handling a sick or dead bird if it needs help, thoroughly washing your hands after touching anything will keep you safe. Finch species present as lethargic and puffed up and it is highly contagious and lethal. In humans and mammals it presents as food poisoning with diarrhea and fever.

"If there is a dead bird in your yard please throw it into the trash. With high rates of salmonella going around these birds are likely to be infected which will be transmitted should an animal (pet or wild) choose to pick it up in their mouth or try to eat it.

"We probably sounds like a broken record, but if you feed birds in your yard or know someone who does please spread the word about pausing this behavior until late spring to help curb the spread!"

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