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Salmonella killing songbirds in California as experts urge removal of bird feeders to stem disease

in People
A Pine Siskin eats black oil sunflower seeds off a feeding tray in the junior college neighborhood of Santa Rosa on Monday, February 8, 2021. Avian experts suggest removing bird feeders and baths after mounting casualties among Pine Siskins and other finch species due to salmonella spread by birds congregating at feeders.(Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

A bacterial disease spread largely at bird feeders meant to help our feathered friends is killing songbirds by the thousands around Sonoma County and across other parts of the state, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The tiny pine siskin, a type of finch which breeds largely in Canada’s boreal forests and winters in California and other areas of the United States, represents the majority of sickened birds, though several other finch species also have been affected.

Bird experts say the best way to help them is to take down bird feeders and bird baths, eliminating the places they congregate and imposing a kind of social distancing on those species vulnerable to infection.

“It’s just reached a point where it’s more effective to just completely remove the feeders and bird baths and just let the birds move through the area, and then in spring, when the pine siskin is no longer in the area, you can put them back up,” said Ashton Klutz, executive director of the Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County.

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