After a busy bird feeding season, some Oklahomans are reporting small, localized die-offs of birds due to a potential Salmonella outbreak at their feeders. The bacterium is passed through droppings and can spread to other birds visiting the feeding station when they come into contact with contaminated droppings. Salmonella may be introduced by the feeding station's regular visitors, or by roving flocks moving through to their breeding grounds. Common symptoms include lethargy, diarrhea and swelling of the mouth and crop. Birds healthy before the infection are often able to fight the infection, but stressed or young birds may struggle more. Ground feeding birds and longer distance migrants like pine siskins and American goldfinches may be more vulnerable to the bacterium.
Rotating feeding station locations every three to four months can help prevent Salmonella outbreaks. If your bird feeder visitors are plagued with the infection, we offer the following spring cleaning tips:
- Close your feeding station for a day. Remove spilled seed and droppings from the ground below the feeders.
- Soak empty feeders in a one-part bleach to nine-part water solution for at least 30 minutes and let the clean feeders dry overnight.
- Relocate your feeding station to "fresh ground" at least 20 feet from your previous feeding station.
- Offer fresh water near the new feeding station to help affected birds recover.