Everything requires tending
When I look out the picture window with my morning cup of tea, one of my great enjoyments is watching the birds come in for their morning seeds or suet. Rain or shine, frost or fog, they eagerly arrive from their mysterious nightly roosts. I marvel at the urgency of their feeding and feel happy that I can contribute to their well-being.
However, a couple of weeks ago an article in our local Audubon newsletter caught my eye: “In late December the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife dead bird reporting hotline started recording many calls about pine siskins with classic salmonella symptoms at or near backyard feeding stations in western Washington.”
When I went to refill my feeder the next day, there was a dead pine siskin (a small finch-like bird) underneath my feeder! Saddened and a bit shocked, I immediately took down the suet and seed feeder, threw out their contents, and soaked them in a light solution of chlorine. Then I stopped feeding for two weeks to let the birds disperse.
Disease can easily be passed around through droppings or moldy seed and concentrations of birds. For good tips about how to care for your birds and your feeders check out this site: http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/winter_feeding/index.html
The feeder is back up now. The birds returned within 24 hours. They love the Christmas tree I moved into place to provide cover from the neighborhood hawks. Still looking for the pine siskins to come back, though!