CORVALLIS, Ore. – As you're welcoming wild birds into your yard this winter, be sure to keep your bird feeder clean and keep an eye on the health of your feathered diners.
"Sick birds will either be found dead or perched, often with feathers in disarray, eyes squinted or wings held out," said Dana Sanchez, a wildlife specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service. "Healthy birds are alert and mobile, whereas sick birds stand out because they are neither of those."
Birds can get salmonella from bird feeders. Other diseases can spread when birds congregate or land on infected perches, Sanchez said.
"If the sick bird is associated with your feeders, take down the feeders and clean them," she said. "It is probably a good idea to keep the feeders down for two to three weeks, until the disease has had a chance to run its course in the local population. Allow the bird to recover on its own. Make sure children, pets and free-ranging cats cannot get to the bird."
Sanchez offered these tips to make sure your feeders are clean and free of mold for backyard visitors.
- Clean your feeders once a month during low-use times and up to once a week during high-use periods.
- Scrape off bird droppings and rinse or wipe clean the perches with a solution of 1 part vinegar to 20 parts water.
- Hang your feeders where the feed won’t get wet. If seed in a feeder has gotten wet and compacted, remove the feed and discard it. Then clean the feeder with warm water and a brush.
- Dry the feeder before refilling with the fresh seed.
- If your feeder’s location is likely to get wet often, only fill it with a one- to two-day supply of seed at a time.
- Clean up under feeders regularly and prevent accumulation of feed beneath the feeders by moving them occasionally. Seed on the ground can attract other animals, such as rodents, that you would prefer to not have near your home.
For more information about feeds and feeder placement, check out the Feed Wild Birds publication from the OSU Extension Service.