Web Zap*Germs Archive

March 25, 2005

Bird Feeders Spreading Disease -- Among the Birds

The California Dept. of Fish and Game has notified the public that pine siskins, a small songbird, are experiencing an outbreak of salmonella. The Department has asked California birders to remove their feeders for a month to slow the outbreak.

While rare, it is possible for humans and pets to become sick from infected birds' droppings around feeders.

Stephanie Hazen, a veterinarian in Salem, Oregon, told the Statesman Journal:

By feeding [birds], people actually increase fecal contamination over what wild birds would encounter in the wild. What you find around feeders is a concentration of feces, saliva and snot....Bird feeders ideally should be cleaned every day and bleached and washed, but nobody's going to do that.

I'm all for scattering food on the ground and changing it from place to place. That way the rain washes fecal material away, the sun gets to work on it, and the food that's not eaten, the slugs and earthworms get it. Around feeders, things are just too concentrated.


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