Friendly and Cleanly Backyard Bird Feeder Practices

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Bird feeders are a great way to bring a diversity of birds to your backyard. Giving these animals a place to eat and drink helps them survive in the winter, as well as give you a chance to observe these beautiful winged creatures up close. However, it is important to practice safe bird feeding techniques to minimize the spread of disease.

When you are watching a house finch crack open a seed with its bill or a chickadee enjoying a drink at your bird bath, you probably don’t think about the possible diseases they could be contracting. Disease is a natural phenomenon in wild birds, and if a sick bird visits your feeder the other guests could also catch something.

Salmonellosis is a common bird feeder disease that can be contracted by birds that visit unsanitary feeders. This disease is spread by infected fecal droppings that contain the Salmonella bacteria. It is contractible by both humans and animals; in birds it causes lesions in the lining of the crop and esophagus. Furthermore, house finches in particular can spread Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, or a common eye disease that resembles pink eye in humans. In addition, Aspergillosis can be contracted if bird seed remains damp long enough and begins to grow a fungus. This can cause bronchitis and pneumonia in birds.

It is rewarding to provide a safe feeding spot for hungry and thirsty birds, but it is an obligation to keep your bird feeders clean and sanitized. Putting out fresh seed and discarding anything that is spoiled is good practice. Also, disinfecting the feeders with bird safe cleaner each time the seed is replaced, and cleaning up old food and debris will prevent the harboring of diseases. If you are providing a sanitary sanctuary for wild birds, it can very well help them survive harsh winters. (U.S. Geological Survey 2013)

Kelly Studwell, FKWBC Intern, 2016

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