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keeping feeders clean

Downy WoodpeckerMost of use have been feeding the birds for the past month or so and the the onset of cold weather, they're probably pretty busy. Now is a good time to clean our feeders and resolve to do so on a regular basis. The following information is from the National Wildlife Health Center

Salmonellosis, trichonmoniasis, 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 feeers by taking the following precautions:

Tufted TitmouseGIVE 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.

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 shop vacuum such as you might use in your garage or workshop will help even more.

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.

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 to 3 minutes. Allow to air dry. Once or twice a month should do.

IF YOU SEE A SICK BIRD. Take down your feeders immediately and clean them. Leave the feeders down for a few weeks.

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.

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

ACT EARLY. Dont' wait to act until you see sick or dead birds. With good prevention you'll seldom find sick or dead birds at your feeders.

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.

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