Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking people to temporarily take down their bird feeders because of a salmonella outbreak.
Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Staci Lehman says sick birds are being reported all over the region. The initial reports came in at first from the west side of the state, but after an online page was set up to take reports of sick birds.
“We could see that it wasn't just across the board, you know a handful of counties or just western Washington or just Washington, but Northwest wide," Lehman said.
The agency is asking people to take down their feeders until April. The concern is that feeders cause birds to congregate together and increase the likelihood the salmonella will spread.
The first signs that a bird may have salmonellosis is often a seemingly tame bird on or near a feeder. Birds infected with salmonella become very lethargic, fluff out their feathers, and are easy to approach.
Lehman says people should not be concerned that the birds will be unable to locate food if the feeder is taken down.
“I get more calls when the weather's harsh about this,” Lehman said. “Are the birds going to be ok if I don't feed them? And they will. It does force them to go out and spread out to find food, so that's not a bad thing right now.”
If you don’t want to take down your feeder, there is one other option: clean the feeder thoroughly every day by first rinsing with warm soapy water, then dunking in a solution of nine parts water and one-part bleach. Finish by rinsing and drying before refilling.
Lehman says it's also possible wild birds could infect domestic birds like chickens by getting access to the chickens' food container. She urges anyone with domesticated fowl to try to ensure wild birds cannot enter the chicken feeding area.
You can find more information on the Washington Fish and Wildlife website. While there you can also report the location of sick birds.