By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
An outbreak of salmonella is killing songbirds along the west coast, including here in Oregon.
The disease can transfer to humans and pets.
Salmonella can kill thousands of birds across large areas, and the disease is here in Central Oregon.
Think Wild, the wildlife hospital in Bend, reports a spike in calls about lethargic and dead birds.
Pine siskins and finches appear to be the most impacted.
One person brought in five birds that had to be humanely euthanized.
“One bird can go to a bird feeder and then that bird feeder is contaminated with salmonella,” said Pauline Baker, director of wildlife rehabilitation at Think Wild. “If you are seeing a lot of birds acting lethargic around your bird feeder, I would advise, at least for the time being, of taking it down to mitigate the spread.”
Jennifer Lair, Wild Birds Unlimited owner, said she compares finches to kindergartners.
“They hang out together. They eat together. They sleep together. Germs get passed so salmonella is really common in them. It’s usually an annual event,” she said. “This year is worse because we are having a ‘finch eruption.’”
Lair says due to a combination of factors, many northern species of finches have moved from Canada into the continental United States this winter. That’s improved viewing opportunities but sets the stage for disease outbreaks wherever birds congregate, as they often do at feeders.
Wildlife experts advise bird lovers teach birds how to practice social distancing by taking down feeders and forcing them to disperse into the wild.
Lair says you can continue feeding other birds
“There’s even people who feed hummingbirds in winter. Suet feeders are feeders that finches don’t really feed from so you can keep feeding from those as well.”
You should disinfect bird feeders once a week by soaking or spraying them in a 10% bleach solution, rinsing and allowing them to dry before refilling with seed.
Birdbaths should be sterilized daily.
Every bird the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife tested in December tested positive for salmonella, leading the state veterinarian to conclude millions of songbirds are likely affected.
If you find dead birds: Wear gloves when picking them up, dispose of them in the trash and thoroughly wash your hands.