Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Pine Siskin

Early January witnessed an influx of Pine Siskins at our feeders. This particularly handsome siskin posed for a photograph on 5 January 2020. Siskins  seem particularly susceptible salmonellosis at feeders and often succumb to the disease. Some birders stop feeding birds during invasion years. I noted that the siskins I have been banding appear to be emaciated. It was with interest that I read a post on the Washington bird listserv by veterinarian Dave Parent. He wonders if siskins really get sick at feeders and suggests an hypothesis that sick, starving siskins may look to feeders for salvation. He points out that most birds harbor Salmonella, which is not lethal to healthy individuals. Perhaps the onslaught of winter weather, (incessant rain in Washington) and food shortages drive sick birds to bird feeders. Parent concludes that bird feeders should be kept clean to guard against a variety of fugal and other pathogens but that feeders are probably responsible for saving more birds than for killing them.

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