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Old 04-02-2009, 10:17 PM   #1
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Default Songbirds dying in alarming numbers- we can help

Songbirds dying in alarming numbers
Published: March 19, 2009 08:00 pm

By Art Bukowski
abukowski@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle - Songbirds dying in alarming numbers
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TRAVERSE CITY -- A bit of feeder-cleaning will go a long way in preventing local songbird deaths, biologists and bird enthusiasts said.
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What's likely going on are cases of salmonella poisoning, Barrett and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Tom Cooley said. The birds are particularly susceptible to the bacteria and quickly pass it to one another at crowded feeders.
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Old 04-03-2009, 10:15 AM   #2
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I'm still not sure feeders don't do more harm than good in the average person's yard. Generally, human feeding of wildlife is discouraged. Given how aggressive species like house sparrows and European starlings can take over feeders, the fact that the bulk of many birds' diet is insects rather than seeds or berries, and this salmonella problem, I tend to think that growing native plants and letting them go to seed, stopping use of insecticides and other pesticides, keeping cats indoors, and providing or preserving nesting and bathing spots is a superior strategy for helping songbird populations.
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Old 04-03-2009, 06:16 PM   #3
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The best bird feeder is a native plant garden. Traditional bird feeders help people see the birds, but the studies I've read suggest there are no increases in the number of *breeding* birds as a result. So basically you risk posioning the birds and spreading disease, and even if a couple of sick birds hang on one more winter, they do not breed and produce offspring so the end result seems very negative to me.

I think the best way to help birds is to vote for conservation friendly politicians, support groups like Audubon, donate money to help save habitat, go "green" with purchases and consume less in general (usually healthier and saves you $$$ to), put up proper nest boxes, keep cats inside\trap any loose cats, and aim to plant 1/3 or more of yard with native plants. If even a small percentage of people do that, the majority of birds will have at least have a fighting chance to deal with the ever expanding population.
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Old 04-03-2009, 08:30 PM   #4
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While I agree the best way to feed the birds is by planting native, I do like my birdfeeder. I do dip it in a bleach solution regularly for the reasons mentioned above and I do not put cheap seed in it. I use safflower seed in my main birdfeeder and sunflower seed in the others. The English house sparrows and starlings don't eat those two seeds.

I'm interested in learning more about any research on feeders enabling sick birds to hang on another year without breeding. I never thought of this before and have no doubt there has got to be research on this out there.
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Old 04-03-2009, 09:44 PM   #5
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Actually while I was searching for the study on bird feeders, I instead found this one claiming that bird feeding increased the number of successfully reared birds. (BioEd Online: Winter bird feeding helps spring breeding)
That's from the UK, but I still think it could be relevant for a more complete picture of what's going on.

Recommended reading by cornell's bird lab, this Washington Post article (Not for the Birds After All (washingtonpost.com)) explains some of the compexity in assessing bird feeder impacts. On increasing survival but not breeding behavior "Feeders can help individual birds stressed by disease or very cold weather. Black-capped chickadees with access to feeders are more likely to survive very harsh winters, according to research in Wisconsin, but they do not breed any better in the spring. " I couldn't find the exact article I was looking for, but I may have overstated the case. The results (probably responsible for the wording above) basically found that feeding helped some birds survive a harsh winter but did not increase breeding.

This study would have been interesting from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080403104353.htm

"There are also times when feeding can affect the timing of a bird's life in unexpected ways. One study, for example, showed that Florida scrub jays breeding in suburban habitats with access to supplementary food breed earlier, but find themselves out of sync with natural food items which are important when rearing nestlings. This means the extra food can lead to a decrease in breeding success rather than an increase." The problem is the source of the study is not given nor is an author name. The study could have been conducted by Walt Disney for all we are told.

I think the take home message might be that while bird feeding probably won't sway bird populations much one way or the other, it is certainly could be a way to get people thinking more about birds.
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Old 04-03-2009, 09:47 PM   #6
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Don't feel bad. I got a headache reading your comments. I thought I might have to take down my bird feeders. I still might have to take them down. I guess it will depend on what we all come up with. West Niles virus has been doing damage. I started feeding to help some of the native birds survive the winters.
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Old 04-03-2009, 10:04 PM   #7
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O heck Lorax, now you want to take yours down and I am convinced I was overly concerned about bird feeding lol

With my head still spinning, it seems most people feel that feeders that are maintained like yours are, the effect is at least neutral and if it helps you see the birds, the why not leave em up!

In my case I did go with a bird seed garden instead of a feeder because A) I am very lazy and cheap person and B) It creates a place for insects as well. I should also note that I do feed suet in the winter sometimes because I like seeing the birds as much as the next guy. Here's an example bird seed garden from the MO Department of Conservation that uses native plants. I also have one that does not use native plants but includes common, old fashioned annuals. The back is Tall Zinnias & Cosmos, there are purple coneflowers in the middle, and dwarf zinnias followed by marigolds in the front. I nixed the bachlor's buttons from the plan because the native plant society listed them as invasive.
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Old 04-03-2009, 10:21 PM   #8
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Why can't you two have both while you sort things out> it's not like the two of you don't already plant natives.

Something to really give the two of you a headache. Welcome to the Lepidopteran Ornamental Guide!
You have to go to downloads then you have to open up the excel file for hosts.

#1 on the list as a host genus is the native Oak. It supports 534 species of Lepidoptera alone. Lobelia supports 4. The top plants are all native woodies.

Read my signature.
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Old 04-24-2009, 07:28 PM   #9
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Default ID- Salmonella outbreak kills birds, Fish and Game: keep feeders clean

Salmonella outbreak kills birds
Fish and Game: keep feeders clean

Idaho Mountain Express: Salmonella outbreak kills birds - April 17, 2009
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Reports have surfaced of a small outbreak of salmonella among birds in the Wood River Valley. The affected birds are pine siskins, small creatures that are considered susceptible to salmonella.

Information on the birds' deaths first came from Jeramie Dreyfuss, a Hailey resident and bird enthusiast who said she found some 30 dead birds in her backyard. Dreyfuss sent the birds to Mark Drew, wildlife veterinarian for Idaho Fish and Game's Bureau of Wildlife, who performed an autopsy.
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"We don't know the source," he said. "But my thoughts right now are that it's a feeder hygiene situation where there are a lot of feeders out and a lot of contaminated seed that's old and wet."
Equilibrium- "Welcome to the Lepidopteran Ornamental Guide!
You have to go to downloads then you have to open up the excel file for hosts." Very good. Good enough it should be a thread of its own if you have time.
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Old 04-24-2009, 09:33 PM   #10
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Default Salmonella May Be to Blame for Bird Deaths- Please bleach your feeders

Salmonella May Be to Blame for Bird Deaths
Minnesota Ag Connection - 04/17/2009

USAgNet.com - Minnesota News - Salmonella May Be to Blame for Bird Deaths
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As birds gather at feeders, they pick up the bacteria, which then spreads to other birds.

Residents and others who feed birds can help stop the spread of the bacteria by thoroughly cleaning feeders with a bleach solution.

The solution should be made of one part bleach to 10 parts water. In addition, rake up old seeds from the ground and spread lime on the ground underneath the feeders. This can help kill the bacteria and stop the spread to other birds. Lime is available at any farm store and should be spread about inch deep to cover the dirt, which may harm grass but will kill the bacteria. It is also advisable to move the feeder to a different part of the yard if sick or dying birds are present.
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