birds-at-bird feeder

Bird Feeders and Bird Baths Are Killing Birds By Spreading Salmonella

We may be adding to the death of the songbirds by spreading disease at bird feeders and bird baths. This is taking place in multiple states, not just in Oregon where I live. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife they claim these deaths are due to Salmonella and it is being spread where birds congregate, especially at bird feeders and bird baths.  Your bird feeders may be killing birds, so please read this.

Take Down Your Feeder and Remove the Bird Bath

Since we know the bird feeders and bird baths are key factors in killing the birds, there is an easy remedy for this. It is spring and the birds can find bugs and seeds to eat at this point.  Each day more bugs and seeds will become available as summer nears. So, they should not starve to death as some people fear. If we keep feeding them with our contaminated feeders, they are more likely to get sick than they are to die from lack of food. It is hard for them in the winter as the birds are accustomed to us feeding them, but in the spring and summer there is food to eat. If you refuse to take down your feeder, I suggest you scrub it out daily. This is what Washington Fish and Wildlife has said needs to be done if we don't take the feeder down. Yes, you heard me correctly. Due to the disease they say if we leave the feeders up, we need to clean and sanitize it daily to keep from spreading Salmonella.

The bird bath should also be cleaned and sanitized and then removed or laid down on its side so it won't gather rainwater.

If we all remove our feeders, clean them up, and put them away for the summer, we can get them out again next winter as long as we maintain good cleaning practices.  We just need to stop the transmission long enough to decrease the prevalence of the disease. Then, if we use preventative measures, including cleaning and sanitizing the feeders and bird baths on a regular basis it will go a long way to ensuring the bird's health.

Being A Good Bird Steward

“If you enjoy seeing birds and feeding them in winter, please provide a clean and healthy environment for them,” said Dr. Colin Gillin, ODFW State Wildlife Veterinarian. “When you feed birds, be sure to start with clean feeders and disinfect feeders periodically.”

We also need to consider the food We are feeding them. I mostly feed sunflower seed and this year a bag of sunflower seed I purchased was moldy. Feeding moldy food to birds is dangerous, as it usually comes with mycotoxins and many mycotoxins have been shown to cause immune dysfunction making the birds more susceptible to infectious disease such as Salmonella. Some types of mold can also cause disease in the lungs of people, birds and other animals when it is breathed in. An example would be certain species of Aspergillus. If you open a bag and find it is dirty, moldy, musty, smells odd etcetera. take it back to the store or throw it in the trash. This bag I bought went into the trash as the bag now had mold dust on the outside of it which I did not want in my car and I did not even want it in my compost where I might breathe it in while turning the compost. I also made sure to call the store and alert them of this situation as no one wants to feed a bad batch of birdseed to the birds and this all too often takes place. By the way, our dogs were terribly poisoned by moldy dog food here in the USA during 2020 from a mycotoxin made by Aspergillus and I am not sure it has been completely removed from the market yet. Some dogs died. Mold in animal and human food is a continual problem all around the world.

Sensible Actions We Can Take At All Times - some of this is rewritten from ODFW News Release, although I have added additional information here also.

  • Remove feeders and stop feeding for several weeks to a month if there are bird deaths at your feeder. At this point in the year, I suggest removing them for the summer.
  • Remove bird baths at the same time.
  • Providing fresh seed purchased recently. Make sure it is free of debris, and odd smells. If dust or bad smells rise from it as you fill your bird feeder that is a bad sign.
  • Using feeders made from non-porous material like plastic, ceramic, and metal. These are less likely than wood to harbor bacteria and other diseases.
  • Cleaning feeders, water containers and bird baths monthly by rinsing with soapy water and then dunking the feeder in a solution of one third cup of chlorine bleach per one gallon of water. (If you don't like bleach, I suggest using hydrogen peroxide solutions made for cleaning and disinfecting. Beer and Wine supply shops often have such products and some grocery stores have them in their cleaning isle.)
  • Cleaning up old seed hulls and waste below the feeders by raking, shoveling, or sweeping material and discarding in the trash. Seeds around the base of a feeder often attracts mice and rats.
  • Spreading your feeding over several areas or feeders as not to congregate birds in one place.
  • Cleaning feeders more often (weekly) if you have large numbers of birds at your feeders.  Of course, clean them daily if disease is rampant such as currently. Washington State recommends daily cleaning currently due to the high rate of disease state amongst the birds currently.
  • Visiting with your neighbors who also feed birds and shar this information. forward this blog to friends and family.
  • Contacting ODFW (866-968-2600/ email Wildlife.Health@state.or.us) or your local Wildlife Rehabilitator if you see sick birds.