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Salmonella Outbreak Killing Sonoma County Songbirds

Low risk to humans, although pets could become infected if they eat bird feed

By Karina Iofee

A salmonella outbreak is behind the recent spate of dead songbirds in Sonoma County, prompting calls to remove bird feeders or at least regularly clean them out to prevent the spread of disease.

Siskins and gold finches are especially prone to salmonellosis, a disease that can occur when birds feed together at bird feeders, or when they use improperly-cleaned birdbaths.

The risk to humans is low, although cats, dogs and other domestic animals that consume food from feeders could become risk. To avoid the spread of the disease, people should throw away dead birds right away and clean their bird feeders, said Veronica Bowers, who runs Native Songbird Care & Conservation in Sebastopol.

“Bird feeding stations are really unnatural things that attract a lot of other species besides the birds,” Bowers said. “They are not needed…there is no food shortage for birds in Sonoma County.”

The group is asking anyone who sees sick birds at their feeder (signs include lethargy and puffy eyes), to take the feeder down for a few weeks. If you have found an ill or injured songbird or have questions about the outbreak, please contact Native Songbird Care at (707) 484-6502. 

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