Diseases among bird populations are on the increase and, as a growing number of households take to feeding their garden birds, researchers have claimed that bird feeders are contributing to the spread of dangerous pathogens, viruses and bacteria in certain species.

Versatile feeder by Slate and Nature

Scientists from both the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have learnt that poor cleanliness, the accumulation of droppings around feeders and the build-up of stale food are aiding the transmission of diseases between garden birds. A problem made worse by the tendency of feeding stations to attract large numbers of birds – including species who would not usually encounter each other at such close quarters in the wild.

In order to combat the spread of diseases at feeding stations, homeowners are urged to follow sensible hygiene precautions: cleaning and disinfecting feeders and feeding sites using suitable disinfectants. These a weak solution of household bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite) or other specially designed commercial products. Feeders should always be rinsed and air-dried before re-use. It is similarly advisable to rotate bird feeders around the garden and to sweep/wash away discarded or uneaten food items from the ground beneath feeders.

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