Illness hits area birds – Residents asked to remove feeders, baths
The death of many finches in Northern California has led the state to ask residents to stop using birdfeeders temporarily.
The birdfeeders are helping spread salmonella, which is killing pine siskins – a finch species – from Grass Valley to Santa Cruz and up to Eureka, according to Dr. Pam Swift, a wildlife veterinarian with the California Department of Fish and Game.
If you find one of the smallish birds with a brown-streaked body and yellow on its wings and tail, pick up the dead body with gloves and put it in a separate trash bag, Swift said.
“People are susceptible to salmonella,” Swift warned. “People are finding them around their feeders.”
Bobbie Swanson and Jack Cramer of Grass Valley found two dead birds in their yard recently that they thought were yellow finches. Swanson said Friday she has birdfeeders and the birds they found could well have been pine siskins.
Maxine Robinson lives just outside of Nevada City and has found two dead birds she described as “gold finches” dead in her yard. Robinson also had two cats get sick soon after, and she thinks they came in contact with the birds’ fecal matter or ate the birds.
“People need to know their animals can get very ill,” Robinson said. Both Robinson and Cramer have cleaned out their birdfeeders to halt any more infections, and Robinson has taken the state’s advice and removed her birdfeeders.
The state is asking people to take their birdfeeders and bird baths down for at least one month to let the epidemic pass. The pine siskins like seed and are probably picking up the salmonella on fecal-infected feed, the state said.
“Every once in awhile there are die-offs (of the pine siskins),” Swift said. “We received numerous phone call here, or they call the West Nile virus hotline,” which then calls her lab.
Stopping salmonella in birds
– Take all feeders and birdbaths down for one month.
– Once restored, make sure you clean feeders and baths with a 10 percent bleach solution and change the feed and water daily.
– Spread small amounts of seed around in the sun instead of just in the feeder.
– Replace wooden feeders with metal or plastic. Wood harbors salmonella and cannot be cleaned as easily.
– If you do find a dead bird, pick it up with gloves, put it in a bag and wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap right after.
Source: California Department of Fish and Game.
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