Keep bird feeders clean, keep birds safe

  • By Sharon Wootton
  • Friday, October 25, 2013 3:07pm
  • Life

Salmonellosis, conjunctivitis, aspergillosis, avian pox, trichomoniasis. Droopiness, diarrhea, severe lethargy, lesions, swollen livers, abscesses. Mouth and throat sores, fungus in lungs and air sacs causing bronchitis and pneumonia, wartlike growths on featherless surfaces (can impair vision, ability to stand or perch).

It’s the Halloween horror show coming to a bird feeder near you. Opening shot: Birds dropping like flies.

I usually preach about this topic in winter, but this year decided to start encouraging your commitment to clean feeders before the cold-weather brings more feathered friends to your restaurant.

Perhaps there should be an Avian Health Department.

Feeder birds see feeders as an easy source of food. The majority of visitors belong to flocks, so there’s bound to be space issues at feeders.

If you see them bumping and aggressively pecking at each other, they’re trying to create space. All of this creates stress, good neither for birds nor humans.

Birds aren’t aware of the dangers of eating seeds that are on top of feces, or that mold is dangerous to their health, or that they may be infected by parasites and bacteria by coming in contact with a sick bird in the communal feeding area.

It’s not too hard to pick out a sick bird among others of its kind. They are less active, feed less, aren’t as aggressive as the healthy birds, and sometimes appear disinterested in flight.

Birds can die quickly from the most common bird-feeder disease, salmonellosis. You don’t notice an individual bird’s death, but you might notice when the number of flocking birds fall off. By then, it’s too late.

If you see a sick bird at your feeder or a dead one nearby, take action. Take your feeders down, dispose of the seeds, and clean the feeders. Wait until they are perfectly dry before hanging back up.

Even more, don’t put them up for a week, let the flock disperse. Then put them up. Birds will find them.

This is about your commitment to minimizing the danger to the birds you love. Why invite them to the restaurant if bacteria and parasites are part of the menu?

It’s about discarding old seeds and hulls and changing the water. It’s about cleaning the feeder. Put that chore on the calendar. Program your electronic devise to remind you once a month.

Feeder cleaning is annoying and messy, but do it anyway. Mix 1 part household bleach with 9 parts water. Find a container that will allow you to put enough disinfectant to immerse the feed for a few minutes.

Use an old toothbrush and scrub everything. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely before setting it out.

Don’t forget the water container. Change it daily, wipe it clean and rinse it each time.

Having read this column, you can no longer plead ignorance when the Ghosts of Birds Past visit in your Halloween night dreams, displaying their warts and lesions and fungus, asking why you invited them to feed at contaminated feeders.

Don’t have a good answer, do you?

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

Trillium: Playing with the editing features on your phone can create interesting effects, like in this trillium photo. (Jessi Loerch)
How to take great on-trail photos with your phone

Today’s smartphones have sophisticated cameras and picture-taking controls. Here’s how to get the most out of them.

The Dmitri Matheny Group, led by horn player Dmitri Matheny, is scheduled to perform Oct. 9 at Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish. (Steve Korn)
All about music: Schedule of concerts around Snohomish County

The listings include Sir Mix-a-Lot, ZZ Top and Bands, Brews and Bowling at Evergreen Lanes in Everett.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS
Chevrolet Trailblazer is back, as a subcompact sport-utility

After a 2021 launch, some features are added for 2022, including some new metallic paint eye candy.

A pit stop in Forks to see the trucks from the Twilight franchise is fun when traveling with teenagers on the Olympic Peninsula. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Traveling with teenagers isn’t so easy-breezy as she thought

The new challenge: Now mom can count on her hand how many vacations they have left as a family.

Dr. Paul on the five signs you’ve been a successful parent

If your adult kids are struggling right now — does that mean that you didn’t do a good job? Absolutely not!

Is she out of luck on this Irish tour refund?

When Susan Danner cancels her Ireland tour after the COVID-19 outbreak, the operator promises a prompt refund. That was a year ago. Where’s her money?

Red osier dogwood  (Cornus sericea (stolonifera)) berries, leaves and twigs.
Red twig dogwoods — there’s variety of shrub for all seasons

Here are four new varieties of twig dogwoods on the market that provide fall and winter interest.

Josey Wise puts out one of the hundreds of glass pumpkins on a display at the Schack Art Center for the upcoming Schack-toberfest on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 in Everett, Washington. The festival runs from Sept, 23 to Nov. 6. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Glowing gourds light up Schack-toberfest in Everett this fall

You can see more than 1,000 of the glass pumpkins, and even make your own. Plus, check out The Artists’ Garage Sale on Sept. 25.

Most Read