Local News

Salmonella could be to blame for birds' deaths

Posted March 9, 2009 6:30 p.m. EDT
Updated March 9, 2009 8:48 p.m. EDT

— Avian salmonella could be to blame for the seemingly inexplicable deaths of a number of birds in Southern Pines.

Bill Kastern, a biologist and owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Aberdeen, says his shop has received numerous calls from Southern Pines residents concerned about birds found dead in their yards.

The area, he says, has been “overwhelmed” with pine siskins this winter because of a poor food supply up north. He believes they could be carrying the strain of the disease.

“Usually, when birds start dropping dead in the winter, the only thing you can blame it on is avian salmonella,” he said. “Since it’s winter, it’s not a mosquito-borne illness.”

Kastern said the bacteria are spread when birds cough and sneeze, and wherever they congregate. Symptoms of avian salmonella include a thin and disheveled appearance and swollen eyes.

The disease is different from the bird flu and cannot be spread to humans. It can spread to other animals, including household pets.

Kastern recommends washing bird feeders and baths with a 10 percent bleach and burying any dead birds. He warns that people and pets should not touch dead birds to prevent spreading the infection.

He expects the problem to go away soon since pine siskens are heading back north for spring.

Kastern stressed that the strain of salmonella is not related to the salmonella scare involving the nationwide recall of hundreds of peanut butter products.