Throughout the pandemic, health experts have discouraged people from gathering in large groups to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Now, wildlife biologists are advising that avian enthusiasts pitch in to keep birds from congregating in an effort to curb an uptick in cases of salmonellosis, a fatal, quick-spreading gut disease, SFGate reports. And that means removing bird feeders and baths from their property. Over the past few months, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been "inundated" with calls from people finding sick or dead finches at bird feeders, the agency said in a statement. Birds contract salmonellosis, which is caused by Salmonella, when they ingest food or water, or come into contact with objects that are contaminated with feces from an infected bird. Most birds die within a day of becoming infected, an avian disease specialist tells LiveScience.
Pine siskins, a type of finch, have been most affected. But the disease also has been reported in lesser goldfinches and American goldfinches. In California, reports of infected birds have largely come from the Central Coast, Bay Area, and Sierra Nevada communities, authorities say. But reports of a "concerning number" of birds being infected are also coming from across the country. The News & Observer reports that people in North Carolina are being asked to take down their feeders. And the same goes for South Carolina residents, per the State. "Keeping bird feeders clean, and temporarily removing them for the next few weeks, is something people can do to help keep birds safe" as they migrate north over the next four weeks, an expert says This year’s pine siskin irruption—the increase in the number of the birds migrating—is the biggest in a decade, per the Audubon Society. (Read more dead birds stories.)