I was wondering what was happening. I keep 12 feeders going year around. Here in far eastern Pawnee County on Keystone Lake, we have had a large irruption of Pine Siskins. Some days there could be 3 dozen on the three thistle, three platform type feeders, and the ground below. In the past 3 weeks we have found 6 dead Pine Siskins either laying on the platforms or on the ground. Also, there always seems to be 2 or 3 sickly looking ones feeding. You can walk right up to them and they will only fly if you reach out.
None of the other birds seem to have problems. Some days the ground is covered with juncos and cardinals and there are just as many goldfinch as siskins. These other species don’t seem to have any issues.
As recommended below, I am going to bring in the feeders and clean them. In a couple weeks I’ll put them back out to see if I still have the problem.
From: okbirds [mailto:<OKBIRDS...>] On Behalf Of Sandy Berger
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2021 9:03 AM
Subject: Fwd: Finches
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From: Joe Tucker <000001df0ca37a3b-dmarc-request...>
Date: Wed, Jan 13, 2021 at 8:48 AM
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
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 release.
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.