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Bird Feeding Season Is Here

White-breasted NuthatchThanks to everyone who supported RCAS by buying seed at our recent seed sales. Special thanks go 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 annual sales. And, new members, we're glad to have you join us.

Winter is around the corner (we’ve started to see a few flakes here and there). We'll be spending more time watching birds from the comfort of our homes. And while we all enjoy this pastime, it’s important to keep both our feathered and furry friends healthy by following a few steps for backyard feeding.

A recent twist on bird feeding is bears. Vermont Fish & Wildlife recommends putting feeders up on December 1, although they may recommend moving that date later if weather conditions are warm and there is no snow cover. It is illegal to feed bears in Vermont and this includes knowingly leaving bird feeders out if you know bears are in your neighborhood. So regardless of the time of year, you must take in your feeders. This is for the protection of you, your family, your property AND the bears. A fed bear is a dead bear. You can learn more by clicking here.

bears sometimes do more than just smell the geraniumsAs for the health of the birds, salmonellosis, trichomoniasis, avian pox, aspergillosis, and conjunctivitis are diseases that may 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:



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.

 CLEAN UP WASTE. Keep the feeder area clean of waste food and droppings. A rake, broom or shovel can accomplish a lot of good, but a 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: nine parts water) for 2-3 minutes. Allow to air dry. Once or twice a month should do, but weekly if the weather is especially warm.

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. A metal trash can is great for this. Keep rodents out of stored food. Mice can carry and spread some bird diseases without being affected themselves.

ACT EARLY. Don’t wait to act until you see sick or dead birds. If you do notice sick birds, take your feeders down, clean them well and wait two weeks to put them up again. With good prevention you’ll seldom find sick or dead birds at your feeders. And don't worry about the birds not having seed. They do fine without us.

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.

And now you know the tips, back in a comfy chair with a hot cup of shade-grown coffee and enjoy the show!