It’s a dirty job…

There are a variety of illnesses and infections that can impact birds, according the the USGS National Wildlife Health Center.  Some studies of implicated the increased density of urban development, as well as crowding at bird feeders, with increases in disease and death rates due to these diseases.  But luckily, a few regular maintenance tasks can help minimize the chance of a disease outbreak being associated with your backyard habitat.

Keeping a well-stocked bird feeder is important to attracting and maintaining a feathery presence in your backyard.  But another part of being a good avian steward is making sure that those feeders and the area around them is cleaned regularly to avoid spreading disease to your feathered visitors.

At least once a week, remove all of your bird feeders and give them a good cleaning.  This can be done by soaking them in a 1 part bleach 9 parts warm/tepid water solution for at least 3 minutes and then giving them a good scrub, rinse, and allowing them to dry.  You can also run them through your dishwasher (assuming you have bird feeder materials that are dishwasher safe).  Scrub all of your birdbaths with a bleach solution as well and make sure to rinse them well and allow them to dry.  This all seems fairly easy, but it is also a task frequently overlooked.

The messiest part of your weekly bird feeding cleanup is removing the discarded food and shells that are tossed onto the ground by your beautiful but messy visitors.  There are many birds that will forage on the ground for seeds that have fallen or been tossed from your feeders, but you don’t want to let these seeds pile up indefinitely hoping someone will come along the munch on them.  Molding seed on the ground can spread disease and attract rodents, uneaten seed can sprout, and discarded shells can smother out surrounding plants when they get piled up.  Take gloves, a broom, shovel, and a bucket out with you and scoop up all those discarded hulls and seeds to keep the area clutter free for your ground-feeding visitors.  These hulls can be put into your garden compost pile to help supplement your garden in the spring!

So prepare your back and hands for a weekly scrubbing and scooping project.  But if you need to keep your positive attitude while partaking of this manual labor, just think of how you are helping ensure a healthy snack zone in your private habitat.

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