An outbreak of salmonella is killing finches across the Pacific Northwest and has recently been noted locally. Most of the affected birds are Pine Siskins (Pinus spinus), but Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) and other finch species can fall victim to salmonellosis as well.
According to various media outlets, dead finch species such as Pine Siskins have been found in recent weeks in backyards in Carson Valley and Truckee, California. Plumas Audubon has received notice that locals in Plumas County have also noticed dead finches near their feeders and have responded by removing the feeders. Plumas Audubon urges local bird lovers to remove their feeders until this outbreak has passed.
The deaths are believed to be related to an outbreak of salmonellosis, a common and often fatal bird disease caused by the salmonella bacteria. The issue appears to be especially bad along coastal Northern California, Oregon and Washington. The bacteria are spread through droppings, especially where bird seed piles up beneath feeders or in-tray feeders where the birds stand among the seeds. Community members can help stop the spread of salmonellosis by discontinuing backyard bird feeding through February, to encourage these birds to disperse and forage naturally.
Sick birds will act tame, appear lethargic and puffed up, and often show sunken eyes. It is possible, although rare, for salmonella bacteria to transfer from birds to humans through direct contact with infected birds or droppings. Please remember to wash hands thoroughly after handling dead birds or bird feeders.