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For Release: Monday, April 15, 2013

DEC Reports: Salmonellosis Affects Redpoll Birds Throughout New York State

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has confirmed that Salmonellosis, an infection with the bacteria Salmonella, has been the cause for mortality in Common Redpoll birds throughout the state during the last few months. Salmonellosis is among the most common diseases associated with birdfeeders. The organism can be spread from bird to bird through direct contact, or through ingestion of food or water contaminated with feces from an infected bird.

"Numbers of dead redpolls have been observed at birdfeeders throughout New York," said DEC's Assistant Commissioner for Natural Resources Kathleen Moser. "Redpolls are especially susceptible to salmonellosis during late winter months. This winter, we've seen particularly large numbers of redpolls in New York that moved south from Canada during cold winter temperatures. This mortality incident will abate once the remaining redpolls migrate north with the warmer weather."

During the last few months, numerous homeowners reported dead or dying redpolls at birdfeeders. DEC wildlife biologists collected specimens in the Western New York area and submitted the specimens to DEC's Wildlife Health Unit for necropsy. Analysis indicated that lesions and culture on the affected specimens were consistent with salmonellosis. Since then, reports of salmonellosis have been documented in numerous locations around the state.

Common redpolls and pine siskins are particularly sensitive to salmonella infection; however it can also affect other feeder birds including American goldfinches and other finches. Salmonellosis can spread among birds through contact with the feces of infected birds. Birdfeeders and the seed on the ground around them can easily become contaminated with feces which results in the spread of the pathogen. Sick birds can be identified by their lack of activity and reluctance to fly.

New Yorkers can help to curtail the spread of salmonellosis in redpolls by removing, emptying and disinfecting feeders with a 10-percent bleach solution. Seed on the ground beneath feeders should be cleaned up and discarded. Because salmonellosis is a pathogen that can affect other species (including humans and pets), it is especially important to practice good hygiene when cleaning feeders or handling dead birds. Dead birds should only be handled with gloves, then double-bagged and discarded in the garbage. If a sick or dead bird is found at home birdfeeders, it should be reported to the local DEC office. Pets should be kept away from feeder areas where sick or dead birds have been observed.

Common redpolls (Acanthis flammea) are small songbirds that are members of the finch family. They travel in flocks and are an occasional winter visitor in New York. This winter we experienced a large influx of redpolls and they have been a common visitor to backyard bird feeders. Their summer months are spent in Canada and areas north of New York.

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