Date: 1/13/21 6:48 am From: Joe Tucker <000001df0ca37a3b-dmarc-request...> Subject: Finches
My Brother in Bremerton, WA sent this article this morning. I thought it might be of interest here.
Sick and dead finches reported in Kitsap Countyand across Washington state
Birds in Kitsap andbeyond are showing up dead or sick at backyard bird feeders, prompting theWashington Department of Fish and Wildlife to ask the public to take down theirfeeders for now.
An"irruption" of winter-roaming finches is likely causing anexacerbation of the spread of salmonellosis.
An “irruption” is ananomaly that occurs some years where finches and other songbirds that normallyspend their winter in the boreal forest in Canada and far north move south toplaces like Washington. This phenomenon has to do with seed crops and spread,which birds seek out for food.
Just as it’s importantfor humans to socially distance during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s importantfor birds to spread out while this disease looms.
“It's like anything else,you know, if you're around a lot of people you have a bigger chance of catchingor spreading something,” said Staci Lehman, WDFW communications manager.
Kitsapresidents were some of the first to report dead and sick birds in theiryards along with those in King, Skagit, Snohomish and Thurstoncounties. But now other areas in Washington and Canada have reported deador sick birds as well. WDFW doesn’t have a formal wild bird tracking program,so it relies on anecdotal evidence from people across the state.
An irruption year doesn’tnecessarily mean a salmonellosis outbreak will happen, but there is a largerchance with the higher number of birds in an area at one time.
"When birds flocktogether in large numbers at feeders, they can transmit the disease throughdroppings and saliva,” said Kristin Mansfield, Washington Department of Fishand Wildlife veterinarian.
Finches like pine siskinsand other songbirds from farther north are the ones being affected bysalmonellosis, a common and usually fatal bird disease caused by the salmonellabacteria. Though uncommon, it’s possible for the disease to spread to humansthrough direct contact with infected birds, droppings or domestic catsthat catch sick birds. Pets or farm birds like chickens or ducks could alsocatch the disease.
To help ease the problemand lower the number of birds congregating in one area, WDFW asks the public totake down bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders as hummingbirds cancontract and spread the disease, too. This request is in place until at leastFebruary to encourage the birds to disperse and forage naturally,according to a press release.
People across the statehave been asking what the cause is and what they should do, Lehman said. Whilemany want to help sick birds in their yard, it’s best not to take them to a vetor wildlife rehabilitator to avoid spreading the disease to otheranimals.
“The first indication ofthe disease for bird watchers to look for is often a seemingly tame bird on ornear a feeder. The birds become very lethargic, fluff out their feathers, andare easy to approach. This kind of behavior is generally uncommon to birds,”Mansfield said. "Unfortunately, at this point, there is very little peoplecan do to treat them. The best course is to leave the birds alone.”
If people don’twant to remove their bird feeders, they are encouraged to clean them daily byrinsing the feeder well with warm soapy water then dunking in a solutionof nine parts water and one part bleach. Finish by rinsing and drying beforerefilling. Keep the ground below the feeder clean by raking or shoveling upfeces and seed casings, according to the press release.
Reducing the number offeeders in a yard or using feeders that accommodate fewer birds, such as tubesrather than platform feeders, will also encourage disbursement. It’s alsoimportant to keep birdbaths and fountains clean, according to WDFW.
If salmonellosiscontinues to spread, the short-term consequence is a lot of dead birds, Lehmansaid. Long-term it’s hard to say what the consequence could be, but these birdshave a role in the ecosystem just like everything else, she said. Birds helpspread seeds that grow into plants, and in turn, help the pollinatorpopulations, which have their own vital contributions to the ecosystem.
WDFW requests that ifpossible, avoid handling a sick or dead bird. When handling a bird, birdfeeder or birdbath, one should wear gloves and wash their hands afterward.