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WDFW asks public to stop feeding birds to curb spread of deadly disease

WDFW veterinarian Kristin Mansfeild said the current die-off of finches and other songbirds is due to salmonellosis.
Credit: Chris
Credit: Chris

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking bird lovers to temporarily stop feeding wild birds after receiving reports of sick or dead birds at backyard feeders.

WDFW said the birds were found in King, Kitsap, Skagit, Snohomish and Thurston Counties. WDFW veterinarian Kristin Mansfeild said the current die-off of finches and other songbirds is due to salmonellosis, a common and usually fatal bird disease caused by the salmonella bacteria.

The spread of the disease this winter could be exacerbated by an “irruption” of winter-roaming finches, according to WDFW. Wildlife experts said an irruption is an anomaly where finches and other species that spend the winter up north move south to find food.

“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 in an article from WDFW. "Unfortunately, at this point there is very little people can do to treat them. The best course it to leave the birds alone.”

WDFW asks the public to stop the spread of the disease by discontinuing backyard bird feeding until at least February, to encourage birds to disperse and forage naturally.

For people who don’t wish to discontinue feeding bird, WDFW asks that you clean feeders daily by first rinsing the feeder well with warm soapy water, then dunking in a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach and finishing by rinsing and drying before refilling. They also recommend keeping the ground under the feeder clean by raking or shoveling up feces and seed casings.

WDFW also recommends limiting the number of feeders to a quantity you will be able to maintain daily cleanings.

WDFW asks members of the public to report dead birds that they observe online and to avoid handling them if possible.