Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Salmonella Threat to Birds Thought to be Over
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Pine siskins do not have a prescribed migration plan, preferring to follow the crops from year to year, according to Wikipedia.
   
Monday, April 12, 2021
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

As skiers leave the valley, the songbirds are swooping in. The activity of our fine feathered friends has increased noticeably in the last week as they flit from tree to tree, from beak full to beak full.

Those who customarily roll out the welcome mat for birds in the form of seed in the bird feeders and water in the bird baths can now safely do so without fear of sickening the birds due to salmonella.

But they are encouraged to perform a consistent cleaning, disinfecting schedule every two to three weeks to ensure the birds don’t continue to get sick and spread salmonella, says Terry Thompson, information officer for Magic Valley Idaho Fish and Game.

There is one caveat, however, for those in the Wood River Valley:

“Our bears will soon be emerging from their dens and we strongly encourage folks to take their bird feeders down in the spring, summer and fall to not attract black bears,” said Thompson. “Bird feeders are amazing attractions for bears and they will soon learn to target bird feeders since they can get a tremendous number of calories from the bird seed.”

If folks want to attract birds to their backyards, they can do so without feeders, Thompson added. Just bring in plants that will attract them or put in a simple water feature or bird bath.

“A food conditioned bear is never a good thing, and the outcome is not favorable to a bear who learns to find food in backyards,” Thompson added. “Last year the food-conditioned bear we had to euthanize in East Fork had become food conditioned to both bird feeders and bee hives.”

Idahoans were asked in early March to remove their bird feeders after it appeared that salmonellosis, or salmonella, might have been detected in southern Idaho.

Salmonellosis is a common and generally fatal bird disease.

Wild birds that frequent feeders in the winter can be especially susceptible to outbreaks due to the large numbers of birds coming to the feeders.

Although uncommon, salmonella bacteria can be transmitted to humans through direct contact of sick birds or droppings. To avoid transmission to humans, people should take precautions when handling sick or dead wild birds, and when cleaning bird feeders or bird baths by wearing gloves and thoroughly washing their hands. Additionally, pet owners, especially those with cats, are encouraged to keep them inside to ensure they do not catch or consume sick birds.

A salmonella outbreak caused by wild songbirds and bird feeders has sickened people in eight states—California, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington. Those affected experienced diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.

No people have died but finches and other birds have died at the hands of bird feeders and it’s feared that people might become sick after coming into contact with a bird or a cat or other pet with access to the birds.

While bird feeders should always be cleaned on a regular basis with warm soapy water, a more rigorous cleaning is required during suspected outbreaks of salmonellosis. Feeders should be cleaned with a 1:10 ratio of household bleach to water. After soaking in the bleach solution, feeders should be rinsed and dried before refilling with seed.

Authorities have told the New York Times that pine siskins have been congregating in California in large numbers this year, which has allowed the outbreak to spread as those birds are not good at social distancing. It’s hoped that the outbreak might be nearing an end as they leave California for Canada.

 

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