Health & Wellness

USU Extension: Steps to Limit Salmonella Outbreak from Bird Feeders

By Marcus Jensen |

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has tracked a salmonella outbreak in numerous songbirds, which has caused bird deaths in several Western states, including Utah. According to the DWR, the birds most likely to be affected are pine siskins, goldfinches and Cassin's finches, yet all birds can be impacted. One culprit: birds congregating in and eating out of contaminated bird feeders and bird baths.

“Any time birds congregate or intermingle, such as at backyard bird feeders, there is always the probability of increased chance of transmitting infections – salmonella included,” said Utah State University Extension Poultry Specialist David Frame.

According to USU Extension experts, there are steps people with bird feeders can take to limit the spread and keep themselves and wildlife safer.

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your bird feeder,
  2. Sweep up and dispose of all feed on the ground so birds do not gather and eat contaminated food,
  3. Periodically wash your feeders with a recommended dilution of household chlorine solution (wash thoroughly with soap and water, then disinfect with a 10% bleach solution, soak for 30 minutes, rinse and then let completely dry),
  4. Do not allow young children to handle the feeders without thoroughly washing their hands afterwards (and keep their hands out of their mouth),
  5. And either change shoes or disinfect soles of shoes before re-entering the residence and/or taking care of domestic poultry.

Experts also suggests that for the next month people temporarily remove bird feeders and bird baths from their yards. Those who do not want to remove their feeders and baths are advised to clean them often (at least once a week), use feeders that are easier to clean and disinfect, spread feeders into several areas of the yard and use feeders that do not allow birds to land on them.

According to Frame, the risk will lessen as the spring approaches and birds continue their summer migration and dispersal.

“As the birds tend to disperse to their summer grounds, this will lower the probability of human contact and thereby decrease probability of picking up significant zoonotic (animal to human) infections from the birds,” he said.

Salmonellosis is a bacterial disease that is transmitted through direct contact and is commonly spread when birds ingest feed contaminated with infected feces. As such, bird feeders can be a source of disease transmission since birds often congregate at the feeders, particularly during the winter months.

Anyone who may see signs of birds carrying infection, or have seen five or more dead birds in their yard, are advised to contact the nearest DWR office. According to their press release, signs of salmonellosis in birds may include ruffled feathers, rapid breathing, lethargy, weakness, neurological signs and diarrhea. These symptoms can eventually result in coma and death, or the birds may remain infected over time and become carriers of the disease.

For more information on how to react to the bird salmonella outbreak, visit


Marcus Jensen
News Coordinator
University Marketing and Communications


Adam Brewerton
Wildlife Conservation Biologist
Division of Wildlife Resources
(801) 510-2034


Extension 330stories Utah 323stories Health 252stories Wildlife 115stories Animals 43stories Disease 42stories

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