A deadly bacterial outbreak is spreading through a songbird population across southern Vancouver Island and the rest of the province.
As of Jan. 10, 20 pine siskins had been brought to BCSPCA’s Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (Wild ARC) in Metchosin this month and determined to have contracted salmonella. In December, 12 siskins were admitted. All of the birds brought in have died.
“It’s really difficult to see so many critically ill birds coming through our doors,” said Wallis Moore Reid, a senior wildlife rehabilitator at Wild ARC. “Although being able to end their suffering when they are in distress is still a blessing, it’s always so challenging.”
Pine siskins are recognizable by their short beaks and prominent yellow under feathers.
When infected with salmonella, pine siskins will have fluffed feathers, laboured breathing, abnormal feces, food stuck to their beak and become lethargic.
Moore Reid said the chances of a siskin surviving salmonella is less than one per cent. Salmonella outbreaks are possible anytime, she added, noting that cold winter temperatures don’t kill the bacteria.
She recommends bird feeders or bird baths that haven’t been cleaned recently either be taken down or given a thorough cleaning, and twice a month thereafter. Feeders should be scrubbed with soap and water, soaked for three minutes in a 10-per-cent bleach solution, then dried and hung up again.
Sometimes it may be hard to tell whether a bird flew into a window, was swatted by a cat, or has salmonella, Moore Reid said. As it can be hard to tell the symptoms of a bird in distress, she suggested calling Wild ARC for help with the safe delivery to their Metchosin location.
Wearing gardening gloves, use a small piece of linen to scoop up the bird. Place it into a well-ventilated box with linen on the bottom and a sealed top. Lastly, keep the bird in a dark and quiet place until it can be properly assessed.
Pine siskins are found around the province, throughout Canada and most of North America.
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