How to Feed Birds Safely

Home & Family, Outdoors
on October 7, 2001

Feeding birds is not only humane, but it also attracts beautiful songbirds to your yard, providing unlimited entertainment. Many of America’s more than 60 million bird-lovers, who already know the enjoyment they create, avidly maintain feeders to entice birds to their yard, reports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

However, poorly maintained bird feeders can create catastrophe for the birds you treasure. Deadly diseases—salmonellosis, avian pox, trichomoniasis—can be spread among songbirds through unsanitary bird feeders. Diseases can either kill birds outright or weaken them, which ultimately makes them more vulnerable to predators.

Follow these tips to protect your birds:

  • Hang more than one feeder. Provide plenty of space for birds to spread out to prevent feeder crowding.
  • Make sure feeders don’t have sharp edges or points that can injure birds and cause bacterial and/or viral infections.
  • Put up feeders that contain no cracks or crevices where mold can form and contaminate seeds. Roofed feeders can help prevent seed mold from developing during wet weather.
  • Use fresh, quality seed. Discard birdseed that looks old, has mold growing on it, is wet, or smells bad. Disinfect the contaminated storage containers and scoops used to fill the feeders.
  • Store seed in tight, waterproof, rodent-proof containers to assure freshness and prevent mold and rodent droppings from contaminating it.
  • Keep feeders replenished with fresh seed.
  • Keep feeders clean. Wash them with a clean, stiff brush every few weeks or more frequently if needed. Use a mild solution of household bleach (one part bleach to nine parts clean water) to disinfect feeders. Rinse them thoroughly with clean, fresh water to remove all bleach residue.
  • Keep soil beneath bird feeders as clean as possible of waste seed and bird droppings. Keep a broom or shovel nearby for convenience.

Taking precautionary steps to keep your songbirds healthy will help create and maintain a thriving habitat, and that’s good for the birds, the environment, and you.