Help Curb the Spread of Salmonellosis in Songbirds

Due to a dramatic increase of gravely ill Pine Siskin patients in our wildlife rehabilitation hospital, Lindsay Wildlife Experience is advising Contra Costa County residents to take down their bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders, until at least April 1 to help curb the potential spread of a deadly disease. See Frequently Asked Questions here

If you find a dead bird, please DO NOT bring it to our wildlife hospital. Instead, double bag the dead bird and dispose of it following proper handling procedures including using gloves and then thoroughly washing your hands. Please report any dead birds to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife here

After seeing a small but noticeable uptick of Pine Siskin patients in December 2020, Lindsay veterinary staff has treated more than 20 Pine Siskin patients since Jan. 1, 2021 (the hospital treated two Pine Siskin patients in all of 2019). Veterinarians have worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine the increase in sick Pine Siskin patients and their high mortality rates is the result of salmonellosis, an infection caused by the salmonella bacteria. The disease can affect birds and is spread by water or food that is contaminated with fecal matter. 

Salmonellosis has been confirmed in the patients we are seeing in our wildlife hospital, and the disease has been reported in Pine Siskins in the Bay Area and the western United States. While these diminutive migratory songbirds can wander southwards during the winter, they are being seen in unprecedented numbers, which experts attribute to a drastic reduction of conifer seeds across the boreal forests of Canada, which they call home. The boom in Pine Siskins means that more birds are congregating, including at backyard bird feeders, which can help spread the disease. 

Following a recommendation from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, we are advising that you please immediately remove your bird feeder(s) until at least April 1 to allow the birds to “socially distance” and prevent further spread of the disease. Weekly cleaning of bird feeders, including with a bleach and water solution, is always a good practice, and can help prevent feeders from becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. Do not overfill feeders and avoid using platform-style feeders where birds can perch. Also, please wash your hands thoroughly after coming into contact with sick or dead birds or anything they have been in contact with as salmonella is a zoonotic disease and can spread to humans. 

If you find a sick or injured bird or other wildlife, please call our hospital hotline at (925) 659-8156 or email [email protected]. While our hospital remains temporarily closed to the public, we are accepting patients in a drop-off area each day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Thank you for helping keep wildlife healthy and safe.