Environment

Backyard feeders may be to blame for California songbird deaths

From top, a Pine Siskin, American goldfinch and Black-capped chickadee sit on a feeder in Fayston, Vt.
From top, a Pine Siskin, American goldfinch and Black-capped chickadee sit on a feeder in Fayston, Vt. AP file

State wildlife officials say infected bird feeders and bird baths may be partially responsible for the death of hundreds of small songbirds in California.

Since mid-December, Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say they’ve been fielding dozens of reports of dead and dying pine siskins, a type of small songbird.

Tests reveal that the birds died from salmonella bacteria. State officials estimate more than 1,000 birds have succumbed to the disease primarily along the central and south coasts and near Redding. The birds catch the feces-born disease and share it when they congregate, so feeders and birdbaths are often a primary transmission source, state officials say.

A similar outbreak occurred last winter, officials say.

“There are two important things that the public can do to help prevent bird deaths,” state avian disease specialist Krysta Rogers said in a written statement. “First, they can remove all artificial sources of food and water such as bird feeders, bird baths and fountains. Secondly, they can report bird deaths … particularly when large numbers of birds are found in an area.”

Suspected outbreaks can be reported online at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Laboratories/Wildlife-Investigations/Monitoring/Mortality-Report.

Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow

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