What You Can Do
National Audubon
Blog Archive

keeping birds healthy at feeders

Carolina Wrens at a peanut butter feederThanks to everyone who supported RCAS by buying seed at our recent seed sales. Special thanks to Anita Campeau of Blue Seal Feeds in Brandon and Paul Garland of Garland’s in Rutland for all their help and support for our sales. And welcome to our ten new members!

Now that winter is around the corner (and once the bears have gone to sleep), we’ll all be spending more time watching birds from the comfort of our homes. And while we all enjoy this pastime, it’s important to keep our feathered friends healthy by following a few steps for backyard feeding.

Salmonellosis, trichomoniasis, avian pox, aspergillosis, and conjunctivitis are diseases that commonly affect birds that visit backyard bird feeders. Sick birds are less alert and less active. They feed less and often cower on a feeder, reluctant to fly. Their feathers look ill-kept. Sick birds are more vulnerable to starvation, predation, dehydration, and severe weather. Eventually, these diseases are fatal.

Disease is one of the many natural processes affecting wild species. You can minimize the risks and spread of avian diseases at your bird feeders by taking the following precautions:

1.       GIVE THEM SPACE. Avoid crowding by providing ample feeder space. Lots of birds using a single feeder looks wonderful, but crowding is a key factor in spreading disease. Crowding also creates stress that may make birds more vulnerable to disease. Several feeders at wide intervals help disperse the visitors.

2.       CLEAN UP WASTES. Keep the feeder area clean of waste food and droppings. A Broom and shovel can accomplish a lot of good, but a vacuum such as you might use in your garage or workshop will help even more.

3.       MAKE FEEDERS SAFE. Provide safe feeders without sharp points or edges. Even small scratches and cuts will allow bacteria and viruses to enter otherwise healthy birds.

4.       KEEP FEEDERS CLEAN. Use feeders that are made of a material that can be sterilized (e.g., polycarbonate). Clean and disinfect feeders by fully immersing them in a 10% bleach solution (one part household bleach: 9 parts water) for 2-3 minutes. Allow to air dry. Once or twice a month should do, weekly could help more if you notice sick birds at your feeders.

5.       USE GOOD FOOD. Discard any food that smells musty, is wet, looks moldy or has fungus growing on it. Disinfect any storage container that holds spoiled food and the scoop used to fill feeders from it.

6.       PREVENT CONTAMINATION. Keep rodents out of stored food. Mice can carry and spread some bird diseases without being affected themselves.

7.       ACT EARLY. Don’t wait to act until you see sick or dead birds. With good prevention you’ll seldom find sick or dead birds at your feeders.

8.       SPREAD THE WORD. Encourage your neighbors who feed birds to follow the same precautions. Birds normally move among feeders and can spread diseases as they go. The safest birdfeeders will be those in communities where neighbors cooperate with equal concern for the birds.


west rutland marsh - november monitoring report

Once again the predicted bad weather did not materialize for today’s monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh. Seven participants, enjoying the warmer temperatures, tallied 24 species. This beats last year’s count of 19 and our November average of 19.

A woodie, a hoodie and mallards – ducks somehow seem appropriate to the marsh as it slips into dormancy, but while there is still open water. One each of the first two species was seen while Mallards, in small groups, were tucked here and there in the reeds.

Also appropriate to the season, Wild Turkey was seen in abundance – a flock of 37 near the intersection of Pleasant Street and Whipple Hollow Road. A Ruffed Grouse was also observed in low flight across a weedy field and into the woods along Whipple Hollow Road.

Highbush CranberryA highlight of the walk was an immature Northern Harrier sweeping across the length of the marsh. A Red-tailed Hawk was in flight along the ridge.

A Purple Finch was observed munching on ash seeds in the same area one was seen during the October walk.

American Tree Sparrows have taken up their winter quarters by the feeders near the boardwalk. They and Dark-eyed Juncos were the only sparrow species observed today.

Our next walk is scheduled for Saturday, December 12 at 8 a.m.

Today’s list:

Wood Duck  1
Mallard  13
Hooded Merganser  1
Ruffed Grouse  1
Wild Turkey  36
Northern Harrier  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Mourning Dove  23
Downy Woodpecker  5
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  9
American Crow  11
Black-capped Chickadee  26
Tufted Titmouse  5
European Starling  21
American Tree Sparrow  6
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  4
Northern Cardinal  2
House Finch  1
Purple Finch  2
American Goldfinch  9
House Sparrow  3


audubon adventures

Teachers and homeschoolers, are you looking for a fun way to teach environmental science and language arts to your students, but that is also educational and correlates to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and the Next Generation Science Standards for grades 3 – 5? Then look no further. Why not try Audubon Adventures? Audubon Adventures is an award-winning, nationally-acclaimed program that aims to interest children in exploring, learning about, and enjoying the natural world around them. 

The theme of Audubon Adventures for the 2015-2016 school year is Action for Planet EarthThe Educator’s Guide, along with quizzes, puzzles, and activities for students can be accessed online.  In addition, offline printed “newspapers” are available to classrooms and homeschoolers covering the following topics:  At Home in a Habitat, Caretaking Our World’s Water, and Power From Our Planet The cost of ordering these student newspapers will be funded by Rutland County Audubon if a teacher or parent would like to purchase them.  For further information about Audubon Adventures, click here to or contact Marsha Booker at mbooker105@hotmail.com if you are interested in participating.  Teachers and parents participating also get membership in the National Audubon Society, e-newsletters from National Audubon and National Audubon’s printed magazine.  


and the winner is......

Hairy WoodpeckerCongratulations to Ruth Smith of Benson! Ruth was the lucky winner of our seed sale drawing at our exhibit in the Forestry Building at the Vermont State Fair. Our seed sale is an annual event to raise money in support of our efforts to protect birds. Ruth will receive a 40 lb-bag of black oil sunflower seeds. Black oil seed is favored by birds because it has a higher fat content which is what they need in the winter to keep warm.

This year’s sale is Saturday, November 7 at two locations: Garland’s on Park Street in Rutland from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Blue Seal Feeds on Rte 7 in Brandon from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cash or check only please.

We hope to sell as much seed as possible during the sale day. We keep the prices as low as possible and our profits go to save birds and bird habitat. Everyone is a winner! Hope to see you there!


audubon seed sale - nov 7

Northern CardinalGarland’s, Park St., Rutland, 8 AM-1 PM

Blue Seal Feeds, Rt. 7, Brandon, 9 AM- 2PM

On November 7 we will hold our annual Audubon Seed Sales at Garland’s in Rutland and Blue Seal Feeds in Brandon. The sales have been an annual event since long before I became active in Rutland Audubon. Many of you have been loyally coming to our seed sales year after year. Thank you! We appreciate your business. The profits from our sales go to running our chapter. We try hard to keep our expenses down so we can spend more time protecting birds and less time fund raising. We expect prices to be lower this year due to a bumper crop.

Another big thank-you to our seed sale hosts - Garland’s Agway in Rutland and Blue Seal Feeds in Brandon are vital supporters of Rutland Audubon. They forgo their seed sale profits for the day to give us this opportunity. We thank them and hope you will give them other business in recognition of their contribution.

The seed sale is also a good time to join our chapter. We give a free birdhouse to anyone who joins during the sale so the membership cost is really minimal. You can get your fall seed from us at whichever location is best for you. Along with supporting our efforts you will be feeding the birds during winter, their most vulnerable time. While you are there, bring us a bird story. We love talking about the birds and any of the many antics we see all the time through careful observation.

We want birding to be fun while we use citizen science to help protect the birds and their habitats.