Bird feeders and waterers are asked to keep an eye out for dead or diseased pine siskins, 15 of which have been found dead of salmonellosis in Santa Barbara County. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife believes bird feces or fluids contaminated with salmonella bacteria left at bird feeders or bird waterers by other birds, which invariably carry the bacteria in their gut, could be spreading the disease. The small forest bird is particularly susceptible, said Krysta Rogers, a senior environmental scientist with Fish and Wildlife, often dying within a day of infection.
Rogers explained it was likely that an increase in year-old pine siskins without much exposure or immunity to the bacteria might be why 300 have been reported dead, primarily in Redding and the central and south coasts of California, though 1,000 dead are estimated to be unreported. A sick bird is distinguished by weakness and labored breathing, and can be seen to sit with feathers fluffed for long periods. Rogers said the disease infected mostly wild birds and that poultry owners are always well-advised to keep wild birds out of aviaries and coops.
Fish and Wildlife requests that the public report dead birds to its Wildlife Investigations Lab to help keep track of where and how many pine siskins are being affected. If a sick bird is seen, the agency suggests contacting a Santa Barbara wildlife center on its list.