Wild Bird Feeding Industry
Samonellosis or Salmonella
Links to websites are included below.
In January 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued FAQ’s on an outbreak of salmonella in humans due to consumption of contaminated processed peanut butter distributed at the institutional level. To access the FDA FAQ’s,
please click here. The FDA information notes that the outbreak had been monitored since September 2008.

This 2009 outbreak of salmonellosis is linked to processed peanut butter products for human consumption and distributed at the institutional level by one distributor. It is not linked to the whole peanuts or peanut pieces used in wild bird feeding. It is also not linked to all peanuts, the peanut crop in general, or the 2008 peanut crop. Information on the situation may be found on the FDA website at this link.

Salmonellosis in Wild Bird Populations: Salmonellosis is not a new avian disease, but rather one that appears periodically in wild bird populations. For instance, there was an outbreak in California in the Pine Siskin population in February 2005. Salmonella bacteria are normal bacterial microflora of many animals and poultry. The Salmonella consist of a range of very closely related bacteria, many of which cause disease in humans and animals. Scientists report that the strain of Salmonella which infects wild birds is unlikely to infect humans, although it could infect pets. Birds contract the disease from each other, most often by eating fecal-contaminated food. But they can also become sick by sticking their heads in tube feeders where their eyes come in contact with the feeder itself.

Information from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
Dr. David Bonter provides the following information on Salmonellosis:

Salmonellosis is caused by a bacteria belonging to the genus Salmonella. It is a common cause of mortality in feeder birds, particularly siskins, goldfinches, and redpolls, but the symptoms are not always obvious. A sick bird may appear thin, fluffed up, and may have fecal material on its vent and swollen eyelids. Infected birds are often lethargic and easy to approach. Some infected birds may show no outward symptoms, but are carriers of the disease and can spread the infection to other birds.

Salmonellosis is primarily transmitted through fecal contamination of food and water. It may also be transmitted through bird-to-bird contact. Occasionally, outbreaks of the disease cause significant mortality in certain species.

Disease transmission can be reduced by 1) cleaning areas that are contaminated with the bacteria, and 2) discouraging large flocks of birds from gathering in one location. With respect to bird feeding, we recommend the following if you live in an area experiencing a salmonellosis outbreak:

- Clean your feeders and birdbaths with water and a 10 percent bleach solution to kill the bacteria.

- Clean your bird feeding area by washing all structures holding your feeders and raking the ground surrounding the feeders.

- Do not reinstall your feeders for a few weeks (or until sick birds are no longer being reported in your area).

If you do continue to feed birds:

- Place your feeders in new locations around your yard.

- Vary your feeding locations so that birds do not concentrate in one location.

- Remove feeders that allow contact between fecal material and food (such as platform feeders).

- Clean your feeders with a bleach solution several times a week. Be sure that feeders are dry before filling them with seed.

Websites for more information:

This link will take you to the Salmonellosis Fact Sheet available from the National Wildlife Health Center.

This link takes you to information on Salmonellosis available from Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.