Today I called a local veterinary clinic and spoke to one of the technicians. We reviewed the situation and she wondered if anyone in the neighbourhood had put out poison to control rodents (squirrels). If you have, please do it safely so that other species are not affected. I then called the Conservation Officer Service and reviewed the problem with Francis at the CO office. After a long discussion he wondered if the birds might be eating food not intended for bird consumption. This would include table scraps, especially bread.
The symptoms of the sick birds include bloating, especially in their abdominal area, lethargy, very slow and sleepy. They do not react to other birds flying around them, as if they do not see them or are too tired to care. They still come to feed and drink but seem to have trouble swallowing. They die within 3-5 days of the symptoms being noticed.
The CO suggested that we DO NOT FEED BREAD or other food not intended for the bird population. Please alert your neighbours and friends. Hopefully this will be a starting point for solving the problem. If the deaths continue to occur the CO or Wildlife services will come out to investigate.
If you notice birds with the symptoms mentioned above, or deaths, please call me at (250) 828-2160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (I am unavailable after April 3) or call Edel at (250) 374-7838 or email her at email@example.com. If you are unable to reach one of us please call Ministry of Environment, General Inquiries at (250) 371-6281 and leave a detailed message for Francis.
UPDATEMore information about our grosbeak population from Bev Lorimer:
Today I spoke with a veterinarian who specializes in wild birds and he gave me a couple of suggestions as to what might be happening.
- Poisoning unlikely as only 1 species involved.
- Bread will not kill the birds, it just does not provide any nutrition.
- More likely to be a digestive upset…leading to enteritis…possibly leading to “salmonellosis”. Birds have salmonella bacteria as normal flora in their digestive gut. If for some reason it increases, as it would with enteritis, it becomes a big problem (as it does in humans). If this is indeed the problem please be very careful handling sick or dead birds. Wash hands very well when cleaning out feeders.
- STRESS environmental or otherwise
- OVEREATING. As the temperature increases the birds increase their activity resulting in overeating especially if there is an abundance of food easily available( as in our feeders).It is important to decrease intake of carbohydrates as the weather and activity change. This overeating leads to digestive upset….as noted above.
This is likely what has happened as the distended belly kind of matches the disease. Please keep in mind the vet has not seen the birds he has just listened to me via a phone conversation. The next bird that dies I will take into the vet clinic.
Please let Edel or me know when you find sick or dying birds. No need to call Francis at Min of Environment.