Sick finches – the ravages of a changing climate

Infected birds identified in northern Nevada and surrounding states

A healthy American goldfinch - photo: Lois Ports

The salmonella bacteria causes Salmonellosis, a common and often deadly bird disease. Late last year and early this year there have been numerous reports of sick and dying goldfinches and siskins in the coastal regions of Oregon, Washington, and northern California.

Infected birds have since been identified in the Reno and Truckee areas, and it was recommended to take down bird feeders for the entire month of February, as the illness is largely spread through contaminated feeders. And now, Salmonellosis has been identified in birds in Elko and Twin Falls, Idaho.

Changes in the climate have and will continue to affect the availability of bird food, shelter and water resources. Rising temperatures, massive wildfires, less snow and more rain in the mountains combined with more frequent and severe drought, spell a complex set of challenges for bird populations everywhere. How these and other factors affect reproduction and health, is largely uncharted.

A variety of groups and government agencies conduct annual bird population surveys, and the the observational work of citizen scientists like Lois Ports, president of the Bristlecone Audubon chapter in Elko, Nevada, is critical for an accurate understanding of trends in wild bird populations. Ports recently identified an American goldfinch showing symptoms of Salmonellosis.  We spoke with her by phone.

See music credits below.

See an op-ed from Lois Ports in the Elko Daily Free Press

Report your bird sightings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology through ebird.org.

A healthy pine siskin – photo: Lois Ports

Music credits as reported to the Public Radio Exchange, in order of appearance

Song: The Secret Place (2005 Digital Remaster)
Artist: Brian Eno
Album: Apollo
Label: EMI Catalogue
Date: 2007
Duration: 2:26

Song: Matta
Artist: Brian Eno
Album: Apollo
Label: EMI Catalogue
Date: 2007
Duration: 2:24

Song: Signals
Artist: Brian Eno
Album: Apollo
Label: EMI Catalogue
Date: 2007
Duration: 2:33

Song: Under Stars II
Artist: Brian Eno
Album: Apollo
Label: EMI Catalogue
Date: 2007
Duration: 1:40

Song: Dutch Blur
Artist: Brian Eno
Album: The Drop
Label: All Saints
Date: 1997
Duration: 2:03