Pine Siskin photo by William Kurt; text by Jessica Bigger
Recently, there have been several local reports of birders finding sick and dead Pine Siskins. The likely culprit is a bacterium called Salmonellosis, which is fatal to many feeder birds. Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches, and Common Redpolls appear to be exceptionally vulnerable to the disease. Salmonellosis is usually spread through feces which can contaminate bird feeders and bird baths. So, it is important to make sure you clean your bird feeders and bird baths very well and often.
“Sick birds may appear thin or fat and fluffed up and may have swollen eyelids. They are often lethargic and easy to approach. Some infected birds may show no outward symptoms but are carriers of the disease and can spread the infection to other birds,” as stated on feederwatch.org.
If you spot a bird you believe is sick, make sure to clean your bird feeders and the surrounding area to prevent the spread of the disease, and call your local wildlife rehabilitation center. If there are several sick birds around, remove your feeders for at least a week and clean them thoroughly.
Prevention is key to reducing the spread. You should clean your bird feeders every two weeks. Scrub your feeders thoroughly to remove any debris, and then wash them with soap and boiling water or soak your feeders in a bleach solution for at least 10 minutes.
For additional information, visit feederwatch.org.
Reprinted with permission of Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.