How to help the Pine Siskin and other finch species avoid Salmonella.
***SCROLL TO END FOR INFO ON REPORTING SUSPECTED CASES OF SALMONELLA***
The U.S. is witnessing one of the biggest reported irruption years of Pine Siskins in the U.S. Irruptions are sudden, dramatic increases in the abundance of an animal, in this case caused by conifer cone shortages in northern North America. The spread of the disease this winter could be exacerbated by what appears to be an “irruption” of winter-roaming finches- an anomaly where finches and other species that generally winter in the boreal forest in Canada and the far north move south and are spotted in areas in larger numbers than non-irruption years. (More information on irruption is available from the Audubon Society website.)
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. Pine Siskins are especially susceptible to Salmonellosis - most birds can die within 24 hours of infection.
Salmonellosis is a deadly disease that spreads rapidly through Pine Siskin populations. Eventually the disease spreads to goldfinches and other finch species. An epidemic usually begins when birds congregate at bird feeders, or when they use improperly-cleaned bird baths. Typical signs of the illness are lethargy, puffy or fluffed up appearance, and occasionally swollen/irritated eyes.
.Owners of free-roaming cats, please take note: Felines preying on birds infected with salmonella can contract the bacteria. Containing cats is safer for them and safer for songbirds and other small wildlife.
If you use bird feeders, please continue enjoying your avian neighbors, but follow these guidelines to help keep them healthy and safe. Please remember feeding the birds comes with responsibility. Help keep Pine Siskins and other songbirds safe and healthy by following the Songbird-Safe Bird Feeding Guidelines below.
Songbird-Safe Bird Feeding Guidelines
First, please consider using native plants to feed and sustain our native songbirds. Native plants are a superior choice to feed birds than bird feeders. Native plants provide seeds, berries, nectar and, most importantly, INSECTS. Creating backyard habitat with native plants supports songbirds through each stage of their annual life cycle, from breeding to migration, and also attracts a greater diversity of birds.
Songbird-Safe Bird Feeder Cleaning Instructions
Prevent the spread of disease. Bird feeders are a primary reservoir for several avian diseases, including Salmonellosis, which spread rapidly among local songbird populations. If you encounter sick or dead songbirds in your backyard, immediately remove bird feeders and bird baths. Do not rehang feeders for at least 3 weeks after the last sick or dead bird is seen in your yard. Properly clean and disinfect your feeders before refilling and returning them to your yard. Bird baths can be refilled after cleaning and disinfection, but should be cleaned and refilled on a daily basis.