READER REPORT: Potential bird-feeder salmonella alert

(Pine Siskin, photographed in 2019 by Mark Wangerin)

One year ago, we reported on concerns about a salmonella outbreak at bird feeders, particularly affecting Pine Siskins. Today we’ve received a reader report suggesting that feeder-keepers keep watch for this again. Sent by Lex:

Our family regrets to report a likely outbreak of salmonella within our local bird population of Seaview in West Seattle.

A dying Pine Siskin was found motionless on our backyard feeder in Seaview.

His feathers were very puffed up and it did not move while other birds came and went. After 10 minutes though it ate seed from our feeder despite being clearly sick and having not the slightest fear of us.

To keep the other birds (and neighbors!) safe, we used gloves and a mask to move the bird into a box with a small towel and some more birdseed where the poor thing died a few hours later.

Apparently, Pine Siskins are often the first to be infected with Salmonella.

As to prevent any spread like in 2021, we would like to encourage our West Seattle neighbors to:
-Look out for unusual bird behavior (unafraid, ruffled feathers)
-Report this incident to WA Dept. Wildlife via 360-902-2415
-Feeders cleaned w/ 10% bleach solution x2 weekly (if not temporarily removing feeders altogether)
-Reviewing Seattle Audubon’s salmonella information page has been helpful to us!

Fingers crossed this is an isolated incident and everyone stays safe!

17 Replies to "READER REPORT: Potential bird-feeder salmonella alert"

  • KM January 25, 2022 (2:34 pm)

    Thanks for sharing, sorry to hear about this!I’ve also learned that platform feeders are the worst for spreading disease, we have stopped using ours entirely, regardless of outbreak. Keeping native shrubs and keeping your garden a bit overgrown for the winter and early spring are great food sources for birds that are less likely to spread diseases than feeders. The juncos, white crowned sparrows, song sparrow, and even black-capped chickadees on occasion love our rain garden for this reason.

  • Lee January 25, 2022 (3:18 pm)

    Does this issue affect hummingbird feeders? We can certainly clean ours with bleach regularly if needed but I’m not  sure if this applies to platform seed feeders only or to all bird feeders. We appreciate any input.

    • WS Res January 25, 2022 (5:31 pm)

      The risk is greatest for little passerine birds that flock together in huge numbers because they pass it among one another. Hummers don’t really flock together, and the frequent cleaning needed for a sugar water feeder probably reduces risk sufficiently. 

  • Rds January 25, 2022 (3:27 pm)

    Feed the birds: you are also feeding the squirrels, rats, mice and raccoons. I thought Seattle Public Health had guidelines on feeding wildlife. 

  • Buddy January 25, 2022 (3:38 pm)

    We have neighbors who just throw down old bread crumbs daily in a certain part of their driveway to feed the birds. I wish that they didn’t do that because it  attracts rats and make birds more vulnerable to the many cats next door.  I wonder what do hummingbirds eat in winter if people don’t leave out hummingbird feeders?? It’s fun to watch the birds on the apple tree next door and seeing them eat things in nature versus eating from a bird feeder. I have a squirrel proof bird feeder but squirrels have figured out how to eat from it! 

    • Patrick H. January 26, 2022 (7:21 am)

      There are a few flowering plants that bloom in winter that hummingbirds find. The plants mostly have very small flowers so they’re not always noticible. Rosemary and Manzanita bushes are two that hummingbirds like. Planting manzanita is a particularly nice way to help hummingbirds since it gives them winter food and a great place to nest. Plus there’s no mainteneance like at a sugar-water feeder. Hummingbirds also begin eating far more insects in the fall and throughout the winter so they can add a lot of fats and proteins instead of just sugars.

  • Stella January 25, 2022 (4:05 pm)

    After seeing at least one infected goldfinch and one pine siskin in our yard at our feeder, we took it down and sanitized the area around the feeder.  We live in the Admiral area of West Seattle. 

  • AHNeighbor January 26, 2022 (6:13 am)

    A few weeks ago, I found a dead Pine Siskin in my yard, ten feet or so from the feeder. I removed the feeder at that time. I’m located in Arbor Heights.

  • anonyme January 26, 2022 (7:14 am)

    I took down my feeders years ago due to salmonella and roof rats.  Still have a few suet feeders, but even those are a problem due to neighborhood cats.  One nearby neighbor has seven free-roaming cats who love stalking birds in my yard.  Nothing deters them.

    • Buddy January 26, 2022 (9:53 am)

      Hey, you sound exactly like me, I have a neighborhood who has many feral cats she has fixed and they are constantly in people yards and killing birds and wrecking vegetables garden due to thinking it is their bathroom.Thanks for the information on what plants hummingbirds eat in the winter. I’ll look into planting them.

      • anonyme January 26, 2022 (11:42 am)

        I feel your pain.  I have at least 3 cats wreaking havoc in my yard at any given moment, while my own indoor cat snarls in frustration.  They even spray on my side door, probably sensing or seeing my cat, and they use my paperbark maple as a scratching post.  Nothing lovelier than working in your garden and coming up with a handful of wet cat poo!  It’s sad that people are not only bad pet owners but lousy neighbors as well.

  • Michael Waldo January 26, 2022 (1:37 pm)

    We have an Oregon Grape shrub that is blooming right now and I see humming birds on it all the time.Mahonia aquifolium, the Oregon grape or holly-leaved barberry, is a
    species of flowering plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to
    western North America.

    • KM January 26, 2022 (2:16 pm)

      Hummingbirds love our camellia tree in the winter!

  • anonyme January 27, 2022 (7:24 am)

    Don’t forget sarcococca, and many heaths and heathers are blooming now as well.

  • Kathryn Daughhetee January 27, 2022 (12:26 pm)

    I’ve noticed several sick Pine Siskins in the last several days. I just went out and took my feeder down. A sick Siskin was on it and didn’t move  until I was actually holding the feeder in my hands I threw out the food and feeder is being decontaminated. I have an extra, clean feeder that I can rotate, but I’m going to keep them both out of circulation for a while. Live in Gatewood.

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