In early February, the Wildlife Investigations lab within California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) confirmed the suspected Salmonella outbreak among pine siskins. CDFW received more than 1,200 dead bird reports within the month of January alone. The Bay Area is a hotspot for the bacteria simply because there is a high concentration of birdfeeders. The District began to receive reports of dead pine siskins and finches in late December 2020. Since that initial report, about half of the total dead birds tested by the San Mateo District Laboratory have been pine siskins (23/42). District staff continues to encourage residents to suspend the use of bird feeders in their yard at this time.
California Department of Public Health guidelines:
For feeders: Take down feeders for at least two weeks to allow birds to disperse. Avoid using wooden feeders, as they are harder clean. Wash the feeder with warm soapy water to remove droppings. Then immerse the feeder in a bleach solution composed of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach. Soak the feeder for 10 minutes, scrub, and rinse thoroughly. Allow it to fully dry, ideally in the sun, before refilling. Wet feeders encourage mold growth on seeds. Bird feeders should be disinfected every two weeks.
For hummingbird feeders: No BLEACH! Change food often. Clean and fill with only enough to last 1-2 days but sooner if gets cloudy/moldy. Use vinegar and water in a 9:1 solution and special bottle brushes to get into small holes. Rinse thoroughly.
For birdbaths: Birdbaths should be emptied and cleaned daily regardless of disease outbreaks. For a more thorough cleaning, make a 1:32 bleach solution in a jug to bring outside. Using a hard brush and scrub bath with soap and water, rinse and soak with bleach solution for 10 – 20 minutes. Cover the bath with a board while soaking to prevent birds bathing in bleach solution. Rinse very thoroughly and allow bath to dry before refilling.
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling feeders or baths.
Unfortunately, birds are not the only ones that can be infected. Humans can potentially be exposed to Salmonella when handling the dead birds. For this reason, always wear gloves or use an inverted plastic bag or shovel to handle them. Then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.