UNDATED – Your backyard bird bath or feeder may be inadvertently sickening songbirds.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says there have been surging reports of sick or dead birds at backyard feeders in parts of western Washington.

That’s prompting them to recommend that people temporarily discontinue feeding wild birds or take extra steps to maintain their feeders.

WDFW veterinarian Kristin Mansfield says the current die-off of finches, such as pine siskins, as well as other songbirds, is attributed to salmonellosis. That’s a common and usually fatal bird disease caused by the salmonella bacteria.

Mansfield says the spread of the disease this winter could be exacerbated by what appears to be an “irruption” of winter-roaming finches- an anomaly where finches and other species that generally winter in the boreal forest in Canada and the far north move south more than usual.

Members of the public can help to stop the spread of salmonellosis by discontinuing backyard bird feeding until at least February, to encourage birds to disperse and forage naturally.

Mansfield says those who choose not to discontinue wild bird feeding should clean feeders daily by first rinsing the feeder well with warm soapy water, then dunking in a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach. Finish by rinsing and drying before refilling. Keep the ground below the feeder clean by raking or shoveling up feces and seed casings.