I took down my bird suet feeders in response to the avian salmonella outbreak. When will it be safe to put them out again?
This is a great question, especially as the weather improves and many kinds of song birds begin to return and forage in preparation for nesting season.
Yes, you may again put up your feeders.
Experts were telling us who feed birds to take down the feeders during the peak of the salmonella outbreak so as to break the cycle of spread, and recommended up to several months without the feeders. The primary species affected by this outbreak, the pine siskin, has moved north toward their summer nesting range and so no longer will frequent your feeders. This year was a particularly good year for pine siskins and that increased the potential for spreading salmonella.
One thing to note about feeding birds. It is important to regularly (every couple of weeks) clean your feeders to remove uneaten seed and/or waste that remains in the feeders, which is where bacteria can reside. This includes doing it ahead of rehanging your feeders after taking them down during the outbreak. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology recommends this:
"To clean your feeder, take it apart and use a dishwasher on a hot setting or hand wash either with soap and boiling water or with a dilute bleach solution (no more than 1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry before refilling.
Clean the ground below your feeders, too, to prevent a build-up of hulls, uneaten seeds, and other waste. Moldy or spoiled food is unhealthy both for birds and for your outside pets. And bird food scattered on the ground can attract unwanted rodents."
Lastly, it is important to know what birds are eating this time of year. In preparation for nesting, development of eggs and feeding the brood, birds eat many different things, but primarily insects, various other invertebrates and larvae, which contain high fat, protein and calcium content. Seed and nectar are supplemental and offer additional nutrition, but aren't as crucial to birds in the summer, especially during the peak of nesting and rearing season.