This morning as I looked out the window, two bright-eyed nuthatches arrived at the feeder station, one landing on a feeder chain, the other on the ground. But there was no seed or suet to greet them. We have sick birds in east Tennessee. I have seen them and others are reporting them as well. It seemed to happen all at once. And because I've seen more than one sick bird, I've taken down the feeders both to disinfect them and to encourage flock feeding birds, mainly finches, to disperse and hopefully reduce the spread of disease.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency posted an alert that included deaths of pine siskins, goldfinches and purple finches with the cause attributed to salmonella. The outbreak of salmonella has not been attributed to peanut butter products and, thus far, is only known to be affecting finches.
I have seen one pine siskin death and two diseased pine siskins that fit the symptoms for salmonella which include severe lethargy, dull, fluffed up appearance and tremors. And I've observed one purple finch with very different symptoms, the inability to grasp a perch or stay upright while attempting to feed on the ground. I have not seen any conjunctivitis.
In her feature bird column in the Knoxville News Sentinel, Marsha Davis reports on the local disease outbreak and gives a good list of ways to stem the spread of disease at backyard feeders. Also, Cornell has an informative page about maintaining feeders and handling disease outbreak.
I encourage everyone who feeds birds to become well informed in advance about disease prevention, what to do if you see sick birds at your feeders and how to report disease in your area. This is an irruptive year for finches and spring migration is beginning. Disease outbreak can happen anywhere.
For the Love of It...
...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.