January 29, 2021
California is experiencing a deadly Salmonella outbreak.
While this is serious—you can definitely help!

BRC has already admitted over 150 birds since the first of the year—more than twice our average number—and over one third of those have been due to the current Salmonella outbreak. Read on to learn:

  • Why are we seeing this outbreak
  • What is causing it and how it affects our avian populations
  • What to do if you find a sick bird that needs help
  • What you can do to help prevent the spread
  • How to properly disinfect feeders and baths
  • Risks to humans and domestic animals

If January is any indication, 2021 is likely to be one of our busiest years in a very long time. Your gifts help us maintain the highest level of care and provide the food, medicines and veterinary services patients need so desperately. If you can help, click the button below and make a life-saving gift today!
Why Is This Happening?
Fluctuations in food sources within a species' normal habitat can result in 'irruptions' or movements to different locations with more adequate food sources. This year, we are experiencing one of the largest irruptions of Pine Siskins in recorded history because their normal wintering grounds throughout Canada's boreal forest are experiencing a shortage of birch, alder and conifer seeds.

Pine Siskins are small, heavily streaked, yellow-accented members of the Finch family. Ravenous seed-eaters, Pine Siskins are also extremely susceptible to Salmonellosis, a fatal bacterial infection that rapidly spreads through entire populations of birds, including those of other species.
What Causes Outbreaks Of Salmonella?
Salmonella spreads rapidly through feces-contaminated food and water. Most often, Salmonellosis epidemics originate where birds congregate at feeders or baths.

With so many Pine Siskins arriving due to this year's unusually large irruption, many are flocking to backyard feeders and sticking around to take advantage of the ready food supply. And while Pine Siskins are especially susceptible to the disease, it can also spread to other birds, and even animals and humans who come in contact with the bacteria-infected feces.
What To Do If You See A Sick Bird
Birds that are infected can be spotted fairly easily—if you know what to look for. Check out the photo on the left below: Healthy Pine Siskins have a sleek appearance and dark eyes. Now look at the picture to the right: Visual symptoms of an infected Siskin include lethargy, a puffed/fluffed-up appearance, and eyes that are partially closed. On occasion eyes may appear swollen, red, or irritated. If the outbreak is happening in your area, you may also find dead birds that have no visual wounds or signs to indicate cause of death.
If you find a sick bird with the symptoms above,
contact BRC immediately. If you are able to catch the bird,
arrange to bring it in for examination.

In order to prevent the spread of the disease, remove all feeders, empty all birdbaths, and disinfect them according to the Songbird-Safe Guidelines below.

After cleaning and disinfecting your feeders and baths,
do not replace the feeders or refill the baths for a minimum of 3-4 weeks.
This will encourage the birds to disperse and break the cycle of the disease.

To prevent the spread of Salmonella to pets and humans, clean up leftover seed, droppings on the ground and other debris from feeders and baths, and safely discard all in your yard waste or trash bin. Make sure you keep yourself safe by following these three easy steps:

  1. Wear gloves to protect your skin from direct contact with bacteria, pathogens and disinfectants
  2. Wear a mask to prevent the accidental ingestion or inhalation of splash-back or aerosolized particles
  3. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after contact with sick or dead birds, dirty feeders or bird baths
How You Can Help Prevent The Spread
In light of the magnitude of this outbreak, we strongly recommend you remove all feeders and birdbaths until late spring when the Pine Siskins will begin migrating north again.

This allows our local birds to redistribute naturally, lowering the risk of congregation and spread of the disease. And don't worry, there are ample sources of natural foods available to them that don't come with the same potential for spreading this deadly disease.

If you choose not to remove your feeders and birdbaths, we recommend cleaning and disinfecting on a weekly basis. In addition, water sources should be emptied daily and refilled with fresh water.
Songbird Safe Cleaning Instructions
How to clean your feeders
Clean and disinfect all feeders at least once per week, all year-round.

Tip: Keep duplicates of each type of feeder so you can place a fresh one out while the other is being cleaned.

Safely discard any remaining food into your yard waste or trash bins including any spilled seed or debris below your feeders. This will help to improve overall yard cleanliness, reduce the risk of children or domestic animals contacting potentially contaminated seeds, and reduce the presence of rodents foraging off dropped seeds.

Scrub feeders inside and out with warm, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.

Soak feeders in a warm bleach solution (1pt. bleach to 9pt. warm water) for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, place the bleach solution in a spray bottle and coat feeders inside and out. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

Allow feeders to fully air dry before refilling and rehanging.

How to clean your bird baths
All bird baths should be emptied daily and refilled with fresh water all year-round.

Each week, clean and disinfect all bird baths following the same procedure noted above for cleaning feeders.
Risks To Humans & Domestic Animals
Salmonella can be transferred from animals to humans and vice versa. While Salmonella is often fatal in avian species, it often presents itself as 'food poisoning' in humans and domestic animals. Common symptoms include acute abdominal pain, diarrhea (sometimes containing blood), vomiting, weight loss or fever. Severity of symptoms can vary widely. Many humans/mammals infected with the disease do not even display symptoms and those who do often do not require medical treatment beyond rest and hydration.

You and your loved ones, both human and animal, are most at risk from contact with infected equipment (feeders, bird baths, etc.) and dropped seeds and debris. If you have chickens, make sure wild birds do not have access to their feed and that they, in turn, do not have access to seed from your feeders. Pets—especially free-roaming cats—are also at risk from hunting infected birds which is one of many good reasons to keep your felines indoors or contained in a catio*.

Your best defense is in following the cleaning recommendations above and the temporary removal of all feeders and baths. Together, we can keep everyone safe—our families, pets and our precious wildlife!

*Use PromoCode BirdRescueCenter for any Catio purchase and 10% of your purchase will be donated to BRC!
A Grim Reality
We are facing a very grim reality as we deal with this Salmonella outbreak. The increase in the number of birds in our care coupled with the near 100% mortality rate in Salmonella patients is truly sobering.

We have been dealing with the COVID pandemic for almost a year now and it's hard not to draw comparisons. Our avian populations are facing a pandemic of their own. Please consider how you can help. With COVID, our best defense was social distancing and wearing a mask. With Salmonella, you can make a difference by simply removing feeders and birdbaths for a few months. And by reducing the spread of Salmonella, you are also helping to keep your human and animal family safe.

As for BRC, without the many Salmonella cases we are receiving each and every day, we will be able to once again focus all our attention on those patients with treatable conditions—those who, with the proper care and attention, can survive.


Less than one month into the year, it's already shaping up to be a busy one. Even at this early date, we are well ahead
of the busiest year in our recorded history!

Wild birds need you!
Please support the life-saving work that helps care for our avian friends by clicking the button below to make a tax-deductible donation.
Donate online using the button above, or mail your check to:
The Bird Rescue Center
PO Box 475
Santa Rosa, CA 95402

Your gift will make a life-saving difference.
The Bird Rescue Center | 707/ 523-2473 | Email