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Salmonella Sickness and Birds
February 22, 2010

Welcome new and old familiar readers.

Thank You for spreading the word.

Pleas stick around.

Are you enjoying the Winter Olympics?

I sure am.

(Big Red Lighthouse, Holland Harbor, Holland, Michiagn.)

This is a wonderful time of year to plan for your Spring gardens and habitats.

It is wise to always plan things out and do it on paper.

Graph paper works wonders.

Sketch in any new plants or designs you want to do and always sketch your plants in as mature plants.

All to often we plant things to close when they are little, only to dig them up two or three years later when they have grown and filled out some.

For the first couple of years, you can fill empty spots with annuals.

Even my friends throughout most of the Deep south and Pacific Coast regions have time for a little planning.

Plan your work and work your plan.....................

This works for all things we do.

Are you starting to hear the birds singing?

Even up here, I am hearing Tufted Titmice, Black-capped chickadees and Northern cardinals warming up for springs great orchestra.

Daylight continues to grow as we inch closer to spring.

However, "Nature" still reminds us that it is indeed still winter.

Here in Michigan, we are in the middle of a reminder right now and for much of this week that it is still winter.

Colder temps and several inches of snow.

So that is what it looks like.......

Sunshine is a rare sight in West Michigan this time of year, but we were so blessed with back to back days this past Thursday and Friday with almost total sunshine.

We also had our first back to back days of temperatures in the upper 30's since December 2nd.

Karen and I took advantage of it all on Friday.

A short trip to Holland State Park and Holland Harbor on Michigan's West Coast.

(Today's photos are from Friday afternoon.)

We packed a little lunch, some hot coffee and off we went.

That's right, to the beach.

Lake Michigan.

100% sunshine.

In February.

(As you can see, you can't avoid seagulls even during winter.)

Be sure to bundle up, the wind is harsh coming off the Lake.

We try to do this at least once a year if we can.

No big deal, maybe a 30 mile drive (one we should take more often).

We enjoy looking at ice formations on the lake.

To our surprise, there was little ice on Lake Michigan,

Ice extended out as far as the pier, where in years past you couldn't see water. Just frozen, rugged, icy terrain.

There were plenty of Nature's sculptures to enjoy, but many of them were not as large this year.

Still, some reached 20 to 25 feet.

Just to get out and enjoy the fresh air and all of that wonderful sunshine, it makes all the difference in the world.

Don't you think?

Nature's handy work offered up some dirty ice bowls, small mountains and valleys.

Frozen waves built up over time.

Some small icebergs and cracks in the ice that are a reminder as to how dangerous it can be to walk out on them.

Still to some degree, I can't resist.

God's craftsmanship is without peer.

Karen and I were also blessed with a bit of wildlife as well.

Seagulls covered the South pier.

A few Redhead and Bufflehead ducks swam in the open waters.

Ducks that aren't so common around here during summer.

The best was saved for last.

As we were leaving the park, high in a tree, a large object caught my eye.


Break out the camera once more.

This is the first time I have seen a Bald Eagle this close to home.

Now I understand, as the eagle population grows, more and more are wintering along open waters of the Big Lake.

However, this is a first for me.

Not my first eagle, but first one around here (Bottom of letter).

What a way to cap off an already perfect afternoon.

If it is possible for you, be sure to get out and enjoy what is around you.

Nature's beauty is everywhere and every day

As winter wears on, nature's food sources begin to run low.

More and more birds may begin to visit your feeders because of this.

More birds means more messes

More messes can bring sickness and diseases to your feeding stations.

All the more reason to keep your feeders clean.

With a little help, I hope to share with you over the next couple letters, some common bird sickness and what you can do.


February is 'National Bird Feeding Month'

It is also one of the months when sickness and diseases can become major issues with feeding birds.

House Finch Conjunctivitis, Botulism, Avian Pox, Trichomoniasis (canker) and other issues birds must deal with

With some technical help from Michigan's Department of Natural Resources.

Today, Salmonella and birds.


Salmonellosis is a bacterial disease caused by members of the genus Salmonella.

This genus consists of over 1,100 species of antigenically related bacterial organisms which are gram negative, rod-shaped, 0.4 to 0.6 microns wide and 1 to 3 microns long.

They do not form spores and are usually motile.

Salmonellae have a wide variety of carrier hosts ranging from humans and domestic animals to wild birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

Some of the common diseases caused by the genus Salmonella include fowl typhoid and pullorum disease (Salmonella enerica sv. gallinarum), mouse typhoid (S. enterica sv. typhimurium) and paratyphoid fever (Salmonella spp.).

The following discussion will be limited to salmonellosis in wild birds. S. enterica sv Typhimurium, the most ubiquitous and common of all salmonellae, is the most common species isolated in wild birds.


Salmonellosis has been seen in many avian species throughout the world, including North America.

Here in Michigan, Salmonella bacteria have been isolated from the following species: American goldfinch, Bald eagle, Black-capped chickadee, Blue jay, Brown creeper, Brown-headed cowbird, Chipping sparrow, Common grackle, Common redpoll, Cooper's hawk, Dark-eyed junco, Double-crested cormorant, Evening grosbeak, Great blue heron, House finch, House sparrow, Herring gull, Mallard, Northern cardinal, Pine grosbeak, Pine siskin, Purple finch, Red-breasted grosbeak, Ring-billed gull, Tree sparrow and White-winged crossbill, to name a few.

Since 1970 when salmonellosis was first diagnosed in Michigan, die-offs during the winter in house sparrows and other avian species around bird feeders has been common.

Transmission and Development:

Salmonellosis is transmitted directly through fecal contaminated food products.

Outbreaks of salmonellosis in wild birds occur mostly in passerine birds concentrated in winter around feeders.

Historically, house sparrows have accounted for 95% of the mortality around feeders.

In recent years it has become more prevalent in common redpolls, American goldfinches, and pine siskins.

Survivors of outbreaks may become healthy carriers and remain so for long periods.

The combination of carrier and susceptible birds concentrated at feeders, and transmission of the disease through fecal contaminated feed result in outbreaks of salmonellosis.

House sparrows, pine siskins, American goldfinch, common redpolls and other feeder birds, due to their feeding habits of crowding onto the feeding area and remaining there until the food supply is exhausted, are exposed for long periods to carriers and contaminated ground.

This greatly increases the number of bacteria a bird comes in contact with, and therefore the threshold number of bacteria needed to cause an infection in a susceptible bird is more easily met.

It also appears that these four species of birds are inherently more susceptible to the salmonellae bacteria than other wild birds.

Salmonellosis outbreaks around feeders subside with the milder weather of spring.

During the spring and summer when many people stop feeding birds and birds are busy with families, susceptible species of birds, while remaining in the same area, tend not to flock but are forced to forage individually.

This dispersal of flocks separates carrier and healthy birds, decreasing greatly the number of bacteria a susceptible bird will come into contact with.

Also winter stress such as lower temperatures is not a factor at this time of the year.

Clinical Signs and Pathology:

Signs range from sudden death to gradual onset of depression over 1 to 3 days, accompanied by huddling of the birds, fluffed-up feathers, unsteadiness, shivering, drooping heads, loss of appetite. swollen eyes to the point where they can't see.

Markedly increased or absence of thirst, rapid loss of weight, accelerated respiration and watery yellow, green or blood-tinged droppings.

Birds infected with salmonella may appear surprisingly tame.

Death is common.

The vent feathers become matted with excreta, the eyes begin to close and, immediately before death, some birds show apparent blindness, incoordinated, staggering, tremors, convulsions or other nervous signs.

However, most people that report die-offs, report finding dead birds around their feeder and an occasional "sick-acting" bird.

Gross internal lesions may include an enlargement of the liver and spleen and inflammation of the intestinal tract with hemorrhaging into the lumen.

A lesion not frequently reported in the literature but observed commonly by DNR pathologists is a thickening of the esophagus and/or crop mucosa into a yellow-tan caseo-necrotic membrane or mass.


The finding at necropsy of a yellow-tan caseo-necrotic membrane in the esophagus and/or crop is highly suggestive of salmonellosis.

However, for a definitive diagnosis, the Salmonella microorganism must be isolated from the liver.

Treatment and Control:

No drugs or antibiotics have proven to be entirely effective for treating salmonellosis in any wild birds.

Sulfamerizine, nitrofurane and broad-spectrum antibiotics in the feed or water may reduce losses in domestic species.

To help reduce transmission, feeders may be disinfected weekly with a 1:10 (10%) bleach to water mixture. The feeder should be thoroughly dried before refilling with feed.

The best control method to use in die-offs around bird feeders is to disinfect all feeders with a 10% bleach solution and clean up all spilled seed.

Feed and feeders should be removed for 2 to 4 weeks.

With the food supply removed, birds will be dispersed, and carrier and susceptible birds separated.


Salmonellosis causes death in wild birds, especially house sparrows, pine siskins, American goldfinch, and common redpolls around bird feeders.

It has also been responsible for losses of herring gulls in two Michigan outbreaks.

However, it is not an important cause of population decline in any wild bird species.

The disease is of interest to individuals feeding birds and is sometimes mistakenly thought to be a poison induced die-off. Therefore, wildlife biologists should be informed and knowledgeable about the disease.

Salmonellosis is of public health and veterinary significance because all members of the genus are potentially pathogenic for man and animals.

Dogs and cats are rarely infected.

It appears that wild birds acquire the infection primarily from their environment (carriers) and that these infected birds play a relatively small role in the transmission of the disease to domestic animals and man.

There’s always a danger of diseases spreading when birds congregate, but you can minimize the risks for your backyard birds when you use good and clean feeders.

Bird baths can spread the salmonella bacterium and other diseases too.

Refresh the water in your bird bath several times each week and clean the bath with 10 percent bleach every couple of weeks, just as you do your bird feeders.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, I would like for you to think about something.

Yes, do some serious cogitating.

Attention New and Regular Readers................

Every year we do Spring favorites or what you like most about Spring.

This year I would like for you to think about your favorite spring activities or your favorite spring garden tasks.

Things you really look forward to and are willing to share in this newsletter.

As they accumulate, I can add some to each letter.

Think about it please, and starting next week I will start asking for your participation and thank you.

Now here is your positive thought for the week.

Class is an aura of confidence that is being sure without being cocky. Class has nothing to do with money. Class never runs scared. It is self-discipline and self-knowledge. It's the sure footedness that comes with having proved you can meet life.

Ann Landers 1918 -

For decades, millions of people have enjoyed Ann's columns and advice.

This is a bit of advice we all can take to the bank.

If you are like me, you never looked at Class in this perspective.

It gives a whole new meaning of the word, and I like this definition.

Class has nothing to do with the way you dress or what you own.

Class has everything to do with confidence and being self assured.

Class never runs scared, but stands up for what is right.

Self discipline, self knowledge, sure footedness in who you are and what you believe without boasting.

Class means taking on the world with a smile and more important.

Sharing you smile with others.

Now that is class.

Class means sharing and caring for others, not to be looked up to.

Kind of reminds me of the son of God............................................

Until next time,

God Bless.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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