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Bird feeders blamed for deadly salmonella outbreak, says B.C. wildlife rescue group

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WATCH: Bird feeders blamed for deadly salmonella outbreak – Jan 6, 2021

Do you have a bird feeder at your home? If so, wildlife rescue workers want your help to protect the local avian population, amid an outbreak of salmonella.

Janelle Stephenson, wildlife hospital manager with the Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C., says her Burnaby facility has recently been overwhelmed with sick pine siskins.

The tiny speckled birds with yellow strips on their wings are native to B.C., often spending the entire winter here.

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Usually the clinic sees about 50 of the birds in a year, but Stephenson said in 2020 they received up to 90 suffering from salmonella alone.

In January, they’ve been seeing about 10 birds coming in per day.

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Salmonella is a naturally occurring bacteria, but Stephenson said well meaning humans can help it spread.

“When the animals congregate around a feeder it spreads quickly, especially in those flock species that have larger numbers like the pine siskins,” she said.

“One bird can be infected and they’ll all get it. And the bird feeders aren’t maintained very well either sometimes.”

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Stephenson said people who maintain bird feeders should keep an eye on their little visitors for signs of infection.

Symptoms include lethargy and a “fluffed-up” or ruffled appearance to the birds’ feathers. They may also have discharge around their beaks or appear to be drooling.

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Infection can bet fatal to the birds.

If someone suspects their are sick birds visiting their feeder, she said they should take it down and give it a deep cleaning, first with soap and water, then with a 10-per cent bleach solution.

Afterwards, she said the feeder should be taken down for at least two weeks, so that the infected birds don’t simply return and contaminate it again.

“They’ll find food elsewhere. Don’t worry, they don’t need your feeders to survive, it will help disperse the flocks.”

— With files from Linda Aylesworth