DNR: Salmonella could be killing birds at feeders

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 16, 2009 - 9:39 PM

Salmonella killing redpolls, pine siskins in seasonal event.

Bleach your bird feeder, save a bird.

Homeowners throughout Minnesota are finding an increasing number of dead birds at their backyard feeders. The likely culprit is a strain of salmonella that is being passed among the birds, primarily redpolls and pine siskins, experts said Thursday.

"It happens just about every spring," said Lori Naumann, information officer for the nongame wildlife program at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Salmonella bacteria can be found in rotting seeds in bird feeders and those that fall to the ground, she said. The bacteria is then transmitted through the birds' droppings.

Homeowners can help stop the bacteria's spread by cleaning feeders with a solution of one part bleach and 10 parts water. Residents should rake up old seeds from the ground and spread one-quarter inch of lime underneath the feeders. The lime may harm the grass, but it will kill the bacteria. The DNR also recommends moving the feeder to a different part of the yard if sick or dying birds are present.

Dead birds should be picked up with gloved hands and disposed of immediately.

Although all birds are susceptible, redpolls seem to be the most affected, Naumann said. Redpolls nest in northern Canada but often spend their winter here and a bit south, she said. Pine siskins are found year round in northern Minnesota.

DNR officials aren't keeping count, but Naumann said it seems they've received more calls this year from homeowners who have discovered the dead birds. It's likely that different weather conditions make it more of a problem some years than others, she said.

The redpolls are moving north now, Naumann said, adding, "The problem will begin to resolve itself."

MARY LYNN SMITH

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