Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Salmonella Found in Warren County Siskins

In late March and early April, cultures from three pine siskins from Warren County yielded Salmonella typhimurium. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wildlife pathologists also detected salmonella in a house sparrow found in Putnam County.

The bacteria may be spread via bird feeding. Following is a synopsis from Kevin Hynes, a biologist in DEC’s Wildlife Pathology Unit, with advice for bird feeders:

“The pine siskins that died from Salmonellosis were from two separate areas in the Town of Queensbury. I am not sure where the Salmonella in these cases originated, perhaps from bird seed that was contaminated during the manufacturing or distribution process or, more likely, from seed and areas around birdfeeders becoming contaminated by the feces of infected resident birds.

“Typically in the late winter and early spring we see the pine siskins and common redpolls dying from Salmonellosis. These birds are winter visitors to New York from Canada, and they appear to be unusually sensitive to Salmonella poisoning. The siskins and redpolls may also be stressed as they travel south in search of food. Occasionally we see our year-round resident birds like house sparrows succumbing to Salmonellosis, but not as commonly as the siskins and redpolls, which leads me to believe that the resident birds have a higher tolerance for Salmonella and can act as carriers, infecting feeders, and areas around feeders, with feces containing Salmonella bacteria.

“Try to keep your feed dry because Salmonella grows better in moist environments. It is a good practice to take your feeders down once a week and sanitize them with a 10% bleach solution (1 part chlorine bleach to 9 parts water), and shovel or sweep up the spilled seed under your feeders and discard it in the trash where birds will not have access to it. In addition, if you notice birds acting sick (sitting alone all “puffed up” or acting weak) you should take your feeders down for a week or two to allow the birds to disperse, clean up any spilled seed from the ground and sanitize the feeders by soaking them in a 10% bleach solution for at least 10 minutes before drying them and resuming feeding.  Wear gloves when cleaning bird feeders and wash your hands afterwards.

“If you find dead birds, caution must be exercised when disposing of the carcasses, because humans and pets are susceptible to Salmonella infection. Birds sick with Salmonellosis are easy prey for cats and dogs which can then become infected with Salmonella, which can result in sickness and death. The NYSDEC Wildlife Pathology Unit may be interested in examining birds found dead at feeders (especially if there are four or more at one time) please contact your Regional NYSDEC Wildlife office for guidance or visit the NYSDEC website.”

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Mary Thill

Mary Thill lives in Saranac Lake and has worked alternately in journalism and Adirondack conservation for three decades.




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