Feeder Maintenance & Hygiene

  Cleaning birdfeeders and birdbaths is a crucial practice in preventing the spread of disease between birds. Recently, scientists noted that the spread of Trichomonad protozoan parasites, which cause a disease termed Trichomoniasis, was on the rise especially among mourning dove and band-tailed pigeon populations in the West.
You can tell if you have a disease problem at your feeders because diseased birds are less alert and less active, they feed less and may cower on a feeder, they may be reluctant to fly, and their feathers do not appear to be in good shape. Birds afflicted with Trichomoniasis typically develop sores in their mouths and throats. Unable to swallow, they drop food or water contaminated with Trichomonads that other birds then consume, thus spreading the disease.
With the concern over this and other diseases, including Salmonellosis, Aspergillosis, and Avian Pox, which are easily transmitted at birdfeeders and birdbaths, Audubon recommends paying diligent attention to cleanliness in pursuit of responsible and rewarding bird feeding practices. Birds with disease are more likely to die from starvation, dehydration, predation, and severe weather, so protect them by following these tips.
  • Disinfect your feeder and birdbath: To keep pathogens at bay, immerse your seed feeder or birdbath in a nine to one water-bleach solution, rinsing it thoroughly, one to two times per month (for tips on cleaning hummingbird feeders, click here). In the presence of outbreaks, disinfect twice as often.
  • Empty water from your birdbath every day: Brush or wipe it clean and rinse, then refill the birdbath with fresh water.
  • Discard old seed and hulls: When you clean your feeder, get rid of the old seed. Rake or sweep up any uneaten hulls on the ground. The disease-causing Trichomonad protozoan, for example, can live for up to five days in food and several hours in water.
  • Avoid overcrowding: If possible, provide more than one feeder and spread them out. Crowding only expedites the spread of disease, so give the birds variety and plenty of room.

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