It seems that every day brings a grim news story and earlier in the week a story from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife came out about a virus killing wild birds. This saddens me deeply and totally ruined my day as we have quite a number of feeders out and get tremendous pleasure from watching the birds outside our back windows.
Salmonellosis, also known as "Songbird Fever", usually occurs in the winter months when large flocks of birds congregate together at bird feeders. It affects mostly songbirds and, here in Washington, the pine siskin is cited as a common victim in the current outbreak.
The WDFW recommends taking down your feeders until February so that the birds will forage in the wild. If you plan to keep your feeders up, clean and disinfect them thoroughly and continue doing this on a daily basis.
We just could not bring ourselves to take down the feeders altogether so I opted for the second recommendation which isn't easy. We have four regular feeders, two suet feeders and two sock feeders.
Here is what I've done and am doing -
I took down all the feeders and emptied them and discarded the seeds. I then washed and scrubbed them in hot, soapy water. Following that, I dipped them in a bleach and water solution (9 parts water, 1 part bleach or 10% bleach), rinsed and allowed them to dry thoroughly. I only put out 2 of the regular feeders and did not fill them, only putting in a fraction of what I normally do. I put the other two feeders aside and every other day I am swapping them out and cleaning the used feeders again. Also, I raked up all of the debris on the ground under the feeders.
Fortunately, we've had two sunny, spring-like days to do this. The symptoms of this disease is lethargy and a puffed-up appearance of the feathers. The bird will also appear quite tame. I saw this very thing as I was cleaning the feeders. It may have been a pine siskin but I'm not certain. It was on a garden bench and I walked right up to it without it budging. It eventually flew off but it sure was showing the signs that I read about.
We've had a huge amount of goldfinches this year. I'm doing all I can without resorting to totally taking the feeders out. I'm keeping a close look at the birds visiting. Since reducing the feeders, there is noticeably less traffic and we haven't seen any pine siskins. At least I don't think so. I find them hard to identify.
If you are a bird lover and feed the birds, do read the article linked above and take action.