Salmonella outbreaks come with the season
with warmer temperatures, spring brings conditions
that are conducive to the growth of bacteria around
your bird feeders. Some species, particularly the
finches, can be highly susceptible to salmonellosis,
caused by bacteria belonging to the genus Salmonella.
This disease is a common cause of mortality in feeder
birds, but the symptoms are not always obvious. Sick
birds may appear thin and fluffed up. They are often
lethargic and easy to approach. Some infected birds
may show no outward symptoms but are carriers of the
disease and can spread the infection to other birds.
has received considerable attention lately due to
the contamination of human food supplies, particularly
peanut butter products. Some pet and bird foods have
also been recalled due to potential contamination.
Recalled products should be returned to the store
or disposed of properly. Contaminated foods, however,
are likely not the cause of most salmonellosis in
birds. Salmonella bacteria normally circulate in populations
of wild birds. The bacteria are primarily transmitted
among birds through fecal contamination of food and
of the disease can occasionally cause significant
mortality in some species like Pine Siskin and American
Goldfinch. Given the large
numbers of Pine Siskins that moved into the southeastern
United States this past winter, we can expect to see
the widespread outbreaks of salmonellosis that typically
accompany siskin movements.
Create a safe bird-feeding environment
If you notice a sick bird at your feeders or bird
bath, minimize the risk of infecting other birds by
your feeder area thoroughly. If you see several
diseased birds, take down all of your feeders for
at least a week to give the birds a chance to disperse.
Salmonella strains found in birds can be dangerous
to humans, so do not handle any sick or dead birds,
and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling
feeders. With proper care and attention, you can maintain
a safe bird-feeding environment in your yard.
information about salmonellosis can be found at the
Wildlife Health Center.
more information on other diseases affecting wild
birds, visit the National
Wildlife Health Center or the Canadian
Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre.