Date: 1/13/21 7:05 am
From: Sandy Berger <sndbrgr...>
Subject: Fwd: Finches
---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Joe Tucker <000001df0ca37a3b-dmarc-request...>
Date: Wed, Jan 13, 2021 at 8:48 AM
Subject: Finches
To: <ARBIRD-L...>

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 County and across Washington state
*Jessie Darland
*Kitsap Sun*

Birds in Kitsap and beyond are showing up dead or sick at backyard bird
feeders, prompting the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to ask
the public to take down their feeders for now.

An "irruption" of winter-roaming finches is likely causing an exacerbation
of the spread of salmonellosis.

An “irruption” is an anomaly that occurs some years where finches and other
songbirds that normally spend their winter in the boreal forest in Canada
and far north move south to places like Washington. This phenomenon has to
do with seed crops and spread, which birds seek out for food.

Just as it’s important for humans to socially distance during the COVID-19
pandemic, it’s important for 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 catching or spreading something,” said Staci
Lehman, WDFW communications manager.

Kitsap residents were some of the first to report dead and sick birds in
their yards along with those in King, Skagit, Snohomish and Thurston
counties. But now other areas in Washington and Canada have reported dead
or 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’t necessarily mean a salmonellosis outbreak will
happen, but there is a larger chance with the higher number of birds in an
area at one time.

"When birds flock together in large numbers at feeders, they can transmit
the disease through droppings and saliva,” said Kristin Mansfield,
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarian.

Finches like pine siskins and other songbirds from farther north are the
ones being affected by salmonellosis, a common and usually fatal bird
disease caused by the salmonella bacteria. Though uncommon, it’s possible
for the disease to spread to humans through direct contact with infected
birds, droppings or domestic cats that catch sick birds. Pets or farm birds
like chickens or ducks could also catch the disease.

To help ease the problem and lower the number of birds congregating in one
area, WDFW asks the public to take down bird feeders, including hummingbird
feeders as hummingbirds can contract and spread the disease, too. This
request is in place until at least February to encourage the birds to
disperse and forage naturally, according to a press release.

People across the state have been asking what the cause is and what they
should do, Lehman said. While many want to help sick birds in their yard,
it’s best not to take them to a vet or wildlife rehabilitator to avoid
spreading the disease to other animals.

“The first indication of the disease for bird watchers to look for is often
a seemingly tame bird on or near a feeder. The birds become very lethargic,
fluff out their feathers, and are easy to approach. This kind of behavior
is generally uncommon to birds,” Mansfield said. "Unfortunately, at this
point, there is very little people can do to treat them. The best course is
to leave the birds alone.”

If people don’t want to remove their bird feeders, they are encouraged to
clean them daily by rinsing the feeder well with warm soapy water then
dunking in a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach. Finish by
rinsing and drying before refilling. Keep the ground below the feeder clean
by raking or shoveling up feces and seed casings, according to the press

Reducing the number of feeders in a yard or using feeders that accommodate
fewer birds, such as tubes rather than platform feeders, will also
encourage disbursement. It’s also important to keep birdbaths and fountains
clean, according to WDFW.

If salmonellosis continues to spread, the short-term consequence is a lot
of dead birds, Lehman said. Long-term it’s hard to say what the consequence
could be, but these birds have a role in the ecosystem just like everything
else, she said. Birds help spread seeds that grow into plants, and in turn,
help the pollinator populations, which have their own vital contributions
to the ecosystem.

WDFW requests that if possible, avoid handling a sick or dead bird. When
handling a bird, bird feeder or birdbath, one should wear gloves and wash
their hands afterward.

People are also encouraged to bring cats inside if sick or dead birds are
found near their home. WDFW would like the public to report dead birds
online at


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