The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has received reports of sick and dead cardinals in north Florida from concerned residents with bird feeders.

Initial reports via the online wild bird mortality surveillance system came in from northwest Florida (Santa Rosa, Bay and Holmes counties). Three to four weeks later, reports came in from north central Florida (Dixie, Marion, Flagler and Duval counties).

Milton, Pensacola, Palm Coast, Old Town, Jacksonville, Bonifay, Salt Springs and Youngstown have reported mortalities, according to the FWC.

Observations of other dead songbird species were rare in these reports.

Artificial feeding stations, such as bird feeders, can draw large numbers of birds into one area. Cleaning bird feeders can decrease the potential for spreading diseases.

Sick cardinals appear to move slowly, often hiding in ground vegetation with limited ability to fly. They seem capable of only short flight distances a few feet off the ground.

The FWC collected two cardinal carcasses and submitted them to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, where laboratory evaluation confirmed the birds were infected with salmonella species. These bacteria are transmitted by ingestion of contaminated feces.

For this reason, it is important to clean bird feeders regularly, especially during disease outbreaks.