Pine Siskin and Salmonellosis Outbreaks

  • Pine SiskinWe are experiencing an Irruptive Pine Siskin year and there are huge numbers of Pine Siskins in North America.
  • During this time, Siskins tend to agressively fight for food and will aggregate around bird feeders.  
  • They are susceptible to disease, in particular salmonella
  • The Pine Siskin is the most common of the "winter finches" to be found at your feeders…but not every year.  An “irruption” migration usually takes place every two or three years that can bring large numbers of Siskins to your backyard.
  • The Pine Siskin irruption migrations mainly occur when the seed crop has failed in the boreal forests. In some years large flocks may appear as far south as Florida.
  • Some “irruptive” Siskins may stay near a dependable food source and nest far south of the normal breeding range.
  • The primary natural foods of Pine Siskins are the seeds of hemlocks, alders, birches, and cedars.

Steps to Prevent or Minimize Disease Problems at Feeders:

  1. Give them space -  Avoid crowding by providing ample feeder space.  

  2. Clean up Wastes - Keep feeder area clean of waste foods and droppings.  A broom and shovel or a shop vacuum works great

  3. Keep Feeders Clean - Clean and disinfect feeders regularly.  Use one part of liquid chlorine bleach in nine parts tepid water (10% solution) to disinfect.  Make enough solution to immerse an empty, cleaned feeder for two to three minutes.  allow to air dry completely before re-filling.

  4. Use Good Food - discard any food that smells musty, is wet, looks moldy or has fungus growing on it

If you have sick or dead Pine Siskins:

  • Remove all feeders for a few days.
  • clean and sanitize all feeders, trays and baths.
  • re-install multiple feeders spread out to prevent crowding.  Reducing crowding at feeders helps reduce stress and the transmission of the disease.
  • Replace wooden feeders with feeders made of plastic or recycled plastic materials for easier cleaning.
  • do not reinstall feeders that allow contact between fecal material and food (platform or tray feeders)
  • Initially provide food and feeders that will not attract finches (suet, peanuts, bark butter bits, hummingbird feeders)
  • re-install finch feeders after an additional two weeks.