A pine siskin is treated for salmonella poisoning at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) hospital, in Merville. Photo by Gylaine Anderston.

Salmonella poisoning in birds a result of unclean bird feeders

Animal advocates warn risk even extending to cats

Have you ever endured a bout of food poisoning?

If you remember the misery, pity our wild birds suffering and dying of salmonella poisoning this winter.

But you can help.

Favourite backyard birds like finches, siskins and grosbeaks seem to be especially affected by the salmonella bacteria, and sometimes evidence points to dirty bird feeders. The bacteria spreads rapidly in a moist environment and can survive large temperature swings.

With infection the bird’s esophagus may swell; it may appear ravenously hungry, but is not able to swallow properly, leading to an accumulation of saliva and food crumbs around the beak. A salmonella-infected bird may also shiver, fluff its feathers, have trouble flying or perching, or regurgitate food. Already this year, MARS has treated 13 pine siskins, mostly for salmonella, with five still in the hospital.

If you find a sick or dead bird, don’t touch it before putting on your rubber gloves. Take the bird to MARS hospital as soon as possible as the bacteria can kill quickly. Never try to treat a sick bird yourself; it requires urgent specialized medical care!

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