New Plan for Collecting Data On Bird Health

Nov 5, 2013

A wildlife rehabilitator is hoping to pin down the extent of salmonella sickness in birds.  

Evening grosbeaks are one type of songbird that can be affected by salmonella poisoning.
Credit Alan Huett

The Northwoods Wildlife Center is planning to train citizen scientists to notice and report cases of salmonella in birds.  Executive Director Sharon Reilly says the center got dozens of calls this spring reporting sick or dead birds…where salmonella sounded like the culprit. 

“Unfortunately when I started talking to other people around – like biologists as well as other rehabbers, there was really no real good hard data on, was this a really bad year?”

Reilly hopes to get a better handle on the numbers with a three-year study.  Salmonella is a common bacteria that is spread through fecal matter.  It often infects birds that eat at dirty feeders.  Reilly says keeping feeders clean can prevent birds from getting sick. 

“Our center is focused on rehabilitating animals that are injured or sick; but we can do a lot more and save a lot more animals by doing more education and promoting prevention – as opposed to dealing with one animal at a time.”

Reilly plans to use an online tool to keep track of confirmed cases of salmonella.  She expects to train volunteers this fall in preparation for the outbreak that sometimes happens in the spring.