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Clean feeders, healthy birds

October 3, 2023
Charlotte Bartleet-Cross

Clean feeders, healthy birds

If you're a bird lover, then you've probably got a bird feeder or two in your garden. Feeding birds is a great way to attract them to your outdoor space, especially during the winter months when food is scarce. But did you know that dirty bird feeders can be harmful to birds? Here's why cleaning your bird feeders and water baths is important for the health of our feathered friends.

Disease transmission

Dirty bird feeders and water baths can become breeding grounds for bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens that can be harmful to birds. One of the most common diseases transmitted through dirty bird feeders is salmonella, which can cause fatal infections in birds. Other diseases that can be transmitted include avian pox and Trichomonosis. Trichomonosis has run rampant within gardens in recent years, taking a toll on greenfinches and chaffinch numbers, so anything we can do to prevent the transmission will help.

To prevent the spread of disease, it's important to clean your bird feeders and water baths regularly. Experts recommend cleaning bird feeders and water baths at least once a week, and more frequently during times of high bird activity.

How to clean bird feeders and water baths

Cleaning bird feeders and water baths is a simple process that can help keep our feathered friends healthy. Here's how to do it:

1. Empty the feeder or water bath of all remaining food or water.

2. Soak the feeder or water bath in a solution of hot, soapy water for at least 10 minutes.

3. Scrub the feeder or water bath with a brush or sponge to remove any debris or dirt.

4. Rinse the feeder or water bath thoroughly with clean water.

5. Allow the feeder or water bath to dry completely before refilling.

By following these steps, you can help ensure that your bird feeders and water baths remain clean and free from harmful bacteria.

What to do if you spot a bird you think is unwell

Chaffinch with trichomonosis

If you spot a bird that you think is unwell or diseased, it is best to stop feeding at bird feeders immediately and empty out your water baths. Use the steps above and give everything a really deep clean, and keep inside/in a shed away from the birds. Avoid feeding for at least the next two weeks. If after two weeks the bird has recovered or flown away, you can resume feeding as normal.

Signs of sickness in birds:

  • Wet plumage around the bill or regurgitated food
  • Swollen growths or lesions on the body
  • Lethargic behaviour
  • Fluffed up plumage
  • Laboured breathing and respiratory distress

For more signs of illness, visit our page on trichomonosis or the avian flu.

Other tips for keeping birds healthy

In addition to cleaning your bird feeders and water baths, there are other steps you can take to help keep birds healthy. These include:

- Offering a variety of foods. Different birds prefer different types of food, so offering a variety of seeds, nuts, and fruits can attract a wider range of birds to your garden.

- Providing shelter. Birds need shelter to protect them from the elements and predators. You can provide shelter by planting shrubs or trees, or by putting up nest boxes.

- Keeping cats indoors. Cats are natural predators of birds, so keeping them indoors can help protect our feathered friends.

In conclusion, cleaning bird feeders and water baths is an important step in keeping birds healthy and preventing the spread of disease. By taking a few simple steps to clean your bird feeders and water baths regularly, you can help protect our feathered friends and ensure that they continue to visit your garden for years to come.

The SBS Team

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