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Leave bird feeders down until April 1 to protect wild birds from deadly salmonellosis

Below is a message from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to anyone using backyard bird feeders. See also our previous info on this topic here.

Continued reports of sick or dead birds at backyard feeders across Washington and other northwest states are prompting the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to recommend people continue to leave their wild bird feeders down another month, or take extra steps to maintain them.

“You can help to stop the spread of salmonellosis by discontinuing backyard bird feeding until at least April 1, to encourage birds to disperse and forage naturally,” said WDFW veterinarian Dr. Kristin Mansfield.

The department first asked residents to remove or clean feeders in February in response to a die-off of finches, such as pine siskins, as well as other songbirds. Salmonellosis, a common and usually fatal bird disease caused by the salmonella bacteria is to blame. When birds flock together in large numbers at feeders, they can transmit the disease through droppings and saliva. 

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. Unfortunately, at this point there is very little people can do to treat them. The best course it to leave these birds alone and report them, and dead birds, to WDFW’s online reporting tool.

Discontinuing feeding of wild birds will not leave them without food supplies during the winter and spring months.

"Birds use natural food sources year-round, even while also using backyard bird feeders, so they should be fine without the feeders for another month," Mansfield said.

If people do not choose to remove bird feeders, please clean them daily by first rinsing well with warm soapy water, then dunking in a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach. Finish by rinsing and drying before refilling. Also please reduce the number of feeders to a number you can clean daily, as well as using feeders that accommodate fewer birds (such as tubes rather than platforms) and spreading out feeder locations. Keep the ground below bird feeders clean by raking or shoveling up feces and seed casings and turn over or cover bird baths so birds cannot access them.

It is possible, although uncommon, for salmonella bacteria to transfer from birds to humans through direct contact with infected birds, droppings, or through domestic cats that catch sick birds. When handling birds, bird feeders or bird baths, it is best to wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly afterward.

Additional information on salmonellosis, its spread, and frequently asked questions about it, can be found in WDFW’s Frequently asked questions on salmonellosis in wild birds blog.

Winter lessons for middle school grade

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife has a program that provides lessons focused on the interactions between humans and wildlife for students in 6th - 8th grade.

“Counting Birds for Science”  takes learners into the world of birding and community science. Students explore sighting numbers from the Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, and gather, graph, and analyze data about birds in their area.

This lesson emphasizes the importance of community science for gathering and recording large amounts of data and observing long-term trends. Educators have the option of birding as a one-time lesson or to gather data over time for a more robust student experience. Though the lesson highlights the Christmas Bird Count, the lesson could also be taught in the spring or fall.  

The lesson is aligned with Common Core State Standards in math and Next Generation Science Standards in life science. Students record, graph, and analyze data and identify trends based on resource availability and interactions with other species. 

"Trafficking Wildlife"  lets students explore the  multi-billion dollar, illegal industry of wildlife trafficking. 

Students take the roles of WDFW detectives and enforcement officers who work to protect regional and international wildlife. Teachers and parents can choose to include a career profile of a WDFW detective. Students read two cases studies of wildlife trafficking in Washington and create their own project informing their community how they can avoid supporting wildlife trafficking practices and help promote the sustainability of wildlife populations.

The lesson encourages critical thinking skills and is rooted in Next Generation Science Standards in life science, as well as Common Core State Standards in writing, and an Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction environment and sustainability standard. 

Details are available on the WDFW website.

Help protect wild birds from deadly salmonellosis

Below is a message from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to anyone using backyard bird feeders. More information here.

Recent reports of sick or dead birds at backyard feeders in King, Kitsap, Skagit, Snohomish, and Thurston counties is prompting the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to recommend that people temporarily discontinue feeding wild birds or take extra steps to maintain their feeders.

The current die-off of finches- such as pine siskins- as well as other songbirds, is attributed to salmonellosis, a common and usually fatal bird disease caused by the salmonella bacteria, according to WDFW veterinarian Kristin Mansfield.

"When birds flock together in large numbers at feeders, they can transmit the disease through droppings and saliva,” said Mansfield.

The spread of the disease this winter could be exacerbated by what appears to be an “irruption” of winter-roaming finches- an anomaly where finches and other species that generally winter in the boreal forest in Canada and the far north move south and are spotted in areas in larger numbers than non-irruption years. (More information on irruption is available from this National Audubon Society website.)

“The first indication of the disease for bird watchers to look for is often a seemingly tame bird on or near a feeder. The birds become very lethargic, fluff out their feathers, and are easy to approach. This kind of behavior is generally uncommon to birds,” Mansfield said. "Unfortunately, at this point there is very little people can do to treat them. The best course it to leave the birds alone.”

Members of the public can help to stop the spread of salmonellosis by discontinuing backyard bird feeding until

Read more: Help protect wild birds from deadly salmonellosis

Video of a Barn Owl exiting a building

Mary Duvall, a volunteer for the Cowlitz-Columbia Christmas Bird Count on Jan. 1, 2021, took this video of a Barn Owl exiting the barn at the Whipple Tree Farm east of Clatskanie while Darrel Whipple was entering the other end of the building.

 

Winter2020 Whistler is online

The Winter 2020 Whistler is available now.

Click to Download the pdf

 

Read more of its content: 

  • President message: A Chant at Solstice
  • Christmas Bird Count are on - see the dates
  • Membership Form/regional Bird Festival info
  • Children’s Discovery Museum: Discovering a Wonderful World during Covid19
  • A quarter-million swifts roosted in Rainier!

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Discovery Museum:  Discovering a Wonderful World

The Children’s Discovery Museum in Longview is currently closed due to COVID-19, but it is maintaining a presence in the community by offering daily links to websites of interest to kids on its Facebook page.

These include short presentations, many of them videos, on birds, plants, animals, chemistry, astronomy, and other science as well as stories, songs, experiments and activities, and travel destinations. For every link that is posted there are many more sites of interest on similar topics. We are putting a link on our WHAS website to these offerings and encourage you to explore further.

Happy surfing!

 

Winter Raptor Survey Slide Presentation

Check out this slide presentation by Jeff Fleischer of East Cascades Audubon, coordinator of the Winter Raptor Survey Project.  Several members of Willapa Hills help with survey routes in Cathlamet and Puget Island, Grays River, Naselle and Rainier, OR. 

The presentation is packed with information and is a great way to continue birding education during the long winter and while Covid19 keeps us isolated. 

 

A quarter-million swifts roosted in Rainier!

Hats off to Carolyn Norred and her crew of volunteers! They documented 270,052 Vaux’s Swift “roostings" at Riverside Community Church in Rainier during the southbound migration. The only roost site to beat Rainier was the McNear Brickyard in San Rafael, CA.

Details are below in Larry Schwitters's summary of the count.

 

Hummingbirds in Slow Motion

Have you ever wondered about Hummingbirds?

Here is a video with over 20 amazing facts, it includes slow motion footage of the bird hover and fly backwards in hd. It would make a great short clip for school nature projects.

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