Growing Salmonella Outbreak Affects Wild Birds by the Masses
Large numbers of wild birds are falling ill and dying from a Salmonella outbreak which has spread across the western states, as well as in the coastal areas of North California, Oregon, and Washington, since December of 2020. Many of the above mentioned state’s Departments of Fish and Wildlife recently released a public warnings regarding the outbreak, which request that public and residential bird feeders be temporarily taken down, in order to decrease the spike in Salmonella infection currently spreading amongst wild birds.
The outbreak first became apparent in early January when reports of both ill and dead birds began flooding in from various states. The birds which have been reported to be most adversely affected by salmonellosis are the Pine Siskins. Other wild birds, such as the Lesser Goldfinches and other types of Finches have also been reported to be affected by the outbreak as well.
Kristin Mansfeild, a veterinarian at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, explains that wild birds “transmit [Salmonella] through droppings and saliva” when they “flock together in large numbers at feeders”. It is believed that the spread of Salmonella amongst wild birds this winter was “exacerbated by… 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”, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
In order to protect our backyard birds, officials have requested that residential bird feeders be taken down temporarily, or at least cleaned daily with hot water. Additionally, people should watch for the signs of illness in any of their backyard birds. These symptoms most commonly include, increased tameness, lethargic movement, a puffed up appearance, and sunken eyes.
Though it is unlikely, people may become infected with salmonella through direct contact with the birds. People who choose to keep their bird feeders up and clean them daily, should be cognizant of maintaining proper hygiene in order to prevent further spread of Salmonella. According to Ron Simon, a national food poisoning lawyer, “most human illnesses are from consumption of contaminated food. And as disgusting as is sounds, the salmonella comes from animal or human feces. Every year hundreds of Americans get salmonella from touching poultry and other birds. People should use care when handling any animal, especially farm animals and birds.”