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October 16, 2007
Contact: Kristin Mansfield, (509) 892-1001, ext. 326

Bird feeding cautions eased

OLYMPIA – Those who enjoy feeding birds in their yards can resume the practice now that reports of a bird disease have tapered off.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) advised people earlier this year to stop backyard feeding after receiving dozens of reports of sick or dead birds at feeders and a laboratory analysis confirmed salmonellosis disease in bird carcasses.

“It’s been several weeks since we’ve received any reports consistent with salmonellosis, so from a disease-prevention standpoint it appears to be safe to start feeding birds again,” said Kristin Mansfield, WDFW veterinarian. “But people should make sure they clean and disinfect their feeders on a regular basis.”

Salmonellosis, a usually fatal bird disease caused by salmonella bacteria, is a common disease spread at feeders in Washington. The disease afflicts species such as finches, grosbeaks and pine siskins that flock together in large numbers at feeders and transmit the disease through droppings.

To prevent or minimize the spread of disease at feeders, Mansfield said feeders should be cleaned regularly in chlorine bleach solutions (one part bleach to 10 parts water) and thoroughly dried. For more information on bird feeding, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/winter_feeding/ and the Fall 2007 Crossing Paths newsletter at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/crossing_paths/.

It’s possible, although uncommon, for people to be become sick from the salmonella bacteria through direct contact with infected birds, bird droppings, or through pet cats that catch sick birds. More information on human health and salmonella is available at http://www.doh.wa.gov/EHSPHL/factsheet/salmonel.htm.

“Wild birds are not dependent on backyard feeding stations,” Mansfield said. “Birds use natural food sources year-round in addition to feeders, so people don’t have to worry about always keeping feeders filled.”