Bird feeders can be put back out following salmonella scare
It’s all right to put bird feeders back out, now that salmonella-infected finches are returning to the Boreal forests in Canada and have other food sources to eat.?
From winter to early spring, birds like pine siskins migrate south to Washington state and other parts of the Pacific Northwest to feast on more available food options. This year the birds suffered from a salmonella outbreak, causing the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to urge people to take down their bird feeders while the finches visit. A large group of birds in one place could more easily spread the disease, which travels through saliva and feces.?
“The disease is still circulating, and we could see the numbers jump back up if we ease precautions too quickly,” said WDFW veterinarian Dr. Kristin Mansfield. “If you usually feed birds at multiple feeders, consider putting up only one or two —??widely spaced on your property?—?to start.”
As the birds leave, it’s still important to try to prevent them from flocking together.?
Now WDFW is receiving only a handful of reports of sick or dead birds —?much less than the numerous reports of dead or sick finches before, said Staci Lehman, WDFW communications manager. WDFW also encourages people to use feeders that accommodate fewer birds?and to keep the ground below the feeders free of feces and seed casings.?
Birds besides finches, like crows, have also been reported with the illness. It’s also possible for humans or other animals, like cats who catch birds, to get salmonella. There were six reports this year of individuals affected by the illness. Cases were reported in Clark, King, Lewis, Kitsap, Spokane and Thurston counties. Three people with the disease required hospitalization, officials said.
“With everything greening up and new food options for birds, it is slowing down,” Lehman said.
Lehman reminds people to still use gloves when handling a dead bird or bird feeders, and to clean the feeders regularly.?
The birds are typically in Washington from winter to early spring. Around January the spread of salmonella was deemed an “outbreak,” Lehman said. This season’s issue with bird feeders are hungry bears coming out of hibernation looking for an easy snack.?
People should still report dead or sick birds to WDFW’s online reporting tool, https://wdfw.wa.gov/get-involved/report-observations.