Source of a Salmonellosis Outbreak
Birdbaths and feeders have been considered the source of a salmonellosis outbreak possibly responsible for more than 1,000 bird fatalities (of the pine siskin species alone) since this winter. The fatalities were first noticed in the western U.S., but some fear the outbreak could be moving eastward.
This is not unlike outbreaks of finch eye disease that have been recorded since 1994, when house finches with swollen eyes were first observed at feeders in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
The bird feeders, soil and perches that are contaminated with feces from infected birds sicken others through contact or the ingestion of tainted food and water. Such atypical die-offs of birds serve as an indicator of the importance of keeping feeders and birdbaths clean, an initiative Kentucky wildlife advocates recommend for native birds’ well-being.
Robin Antenucci, president of the Frankfort Audubon Society, said there are several ways the community can help remedy and prevent this situation from happening here, along with other methods to foster a healthy environment for bird life.
“One of the best ways is to plant native trees, shrubs and flowers in our yards,” she said. “Native plants encourage and support native species of birds by providing berries, seeds, nectar, etc., that give our birds the nutrition they need.”
Feeding birds with birdseed, suet, nectar and items made specifically for birds is best, she said, as opposed to feeding birds human foods. “Some birds like orioles will eat fruits like oranges, but for the most part human food is not good for birds,” she said. As far as feeders go, Antenucci recommended cleaning them with hot water and a brush every one to two weeks. “After washing, rinse the feeder with water containing 10 percent bleach,” she said. “Feeders should be completely air-dried before being refilled.”
Another way to help birds is to keep cats indoors, which benefits the well being of both species, she said. “Cats are responsible for a significant level of songbird mortality,” she said. “Keeping cats indoors helps to save birds and keeps cats healthier and exposed to fewer outdoor hazards like cars, dogs, diseases and parasites.”
Antenucci said there are several top-notch resources for those who have questions about birds and their health, such as The National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Department. “Also we now have a Wild Birds Unlimited store in Frankfort,” she said. “They provide lots of great products and information about birds and feeding birds.”