Various species of small songbirds are dying in parts of British Columbia, in Canada - and the deaths are linked to a salmonella outbreak from birdbaths and feeders.
Local wildlife rehabilitation organizations BC Wildlife Rescue Association and Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) report a sharp increase in the recorded number of sick and dying siskins because of salmonella. They have asked the public to remove, or at least clean, their baths and bird feeders to prevent the disease's spread.
Different bird species - including pine siskins and "nomadic finches with pointed bills and yellow edges on their wings and tails" - are among the commonly-found birds in the area during the winter months, searching for food the Canadian province.
A Salmonella Outbreak Among Birds
So far, 12 pine siskins were brought to the wildlife rescue group last December, and 16 were brought to its Metchosin facility in the same period. According to Wallis Moore Reid of Wild ARC, none of these incidents were reported last year, as reported by Vancouver-based publication Times Colonist.
Even worse, the BC Wildlife Rescue Association has reported 127 siskins suffering from illness in 2020, including 75 from December alone. As of January 2021, 36 more sick siskins have been brought to their facilities.
"Due to the severity of the outbreak, none of the siskins have survived so far," Moore Reid told the Colonist, adding that the disease was severe and that survival rates are low.
Salmonella in humans is among the most frequently reported causes of food-related illnesses. Similarly, it attacks the digestive system of infected birds, making feeding and digestion difficult. It is also transmitted through fecal contamination of food and water - making baths and feeders crucial in the outbreak - as well as with contact with other birds. Birds suffering from the disease appear weak, lethargic, and fluffed up.
The wildlife rehab groups ask people to remove their feeders or birdbaths, or at least clean them regularly - first with soap and water, then with a 10% bleach solution, before rinsing and drying. Additionally, people doing maintenance on feeders and baths must be careful since salmonella can also affect humans and other animals.
Pine siskins (Spinus pinus) belong to the finch family, most found in North America throughout the year. Moving usually in large numbers, they are known for having extremely sporadic migration habits. Bird watchers report huge flocks of siskins in a year while they are rare in other instances.
Pine siskins were first formally described in 1810 by Alexander Wilson, an American ornithologist, under the name Fringilla pinus, later being moved to the genus Spinus - passerine birds under the family of finches.
An entry of the pine siskins from The Cornell Lab states that they are often found nesting in coniferous or mixed forests but are also seen in parks and suburban woodlands. Their diet is mainly composed of pine seeds, hence the name, and other conifers - cedar, hemlock, larch, spruce, and others.
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