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Bird Feeders Can Go Back Up After Deadly Disease

Doug McKnight
It’s safe to fill bird feeders with seeds once again. Local wildlife rescue centers asked the community to remove feeders earlier this year to slow the spread of a deadly disease among local songbirds. ";

As the weather warms up and sunrises are greeted with chirping birds, local wildlife rescue centers say it’s safe to put bird feeders back up. They asked the community to remove feeders earlier this year after they became a salmonella super-spreader for a native songbird.

Bird feeders are safe as long as you aren't seeing any Pine Siskins in your yard, according to Beth Brookhouser with the SPCA for Monterey County.

“They’re cute little brown birds with yellow streaks on their wings and tails,” Brookhouser said.

The SPCA rescued nearly 30 sick Pine Siskins this winter and spring who suffered from a large salmonellosis outbreak across California, Oregon and Washington. In previous years, Brookhouser said they took in zero. Native Animal Rescue in Santa Cruz County recorded the worst salmonellosis outbreak among these songbirds in its 40-year history.

Bird feeders and bird baths spread the disease, which can be deadly to Pine Siskins, through droppings or saliva. Since Pine Siskins are a migratory bird, they’ve now left the area.

“They stayed well through April. But it does seem like the Pine Siskins have moved on at this point,” Brookhouser said. 

That means it’s safe to fill your feeders with seeds once again. Still, cleaning bird feeders and bird baths regularly is important, said Brookhouser. She recommends cleaning them weekly.

“You want to clean out all the seeds, clean out all the droppings, give it a nice, thorough wipe down,” Brookhouser said. “Also, make sure it's completely dry before you put seeds back in so that it doesn't grow mold or any other things that might be harmful to our local bird population.”

Then, she said, give them a good bleach bath monthly.

Brookhouser added an alternative to feeders is a native garden that naturally attracts birds without running the risk of an outbreak like this happening again.

Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.
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