MONTPELIER, Vt. - The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department says it's alright to put out those bird feeders now that Vermont's black bears are sleeping in their dens for the winter. But, the department offers some advice about bird feeder cleanliness before you run out and buy that first twenty dollar bag of seed.
Fish & Wildlife says cleaning bird feeders on a regular basis is an important and often overlooked component of feeding birds so they don't become sick.
"Feeding birds in the winter is a source of great enjoyment for bird enthusiasts, but it can also cause diseases to spread quickly among wild birds," says John Buck, the state's lead biologist on migratory birds. "It is critical to clean those birdfeeders at least once a month in order to prevent a buildup of harmful pathogens."
Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites can cause diseases such as aspergillosis, salmonella, avian pox, trichomoniasis, and conjunctivitis. Species commonly affected by bird feeder diseases are redpolls, pine siskins, goldfinches, sparrows, and cardinals.
Buck recommends using a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water to kill bacteria. Hot water with unscented dish detergent also does an excellent job. Wear rubber gloves to avoid any contamination. Be sure to clean inside and outside surfaces. Bottle brushes work well in tube feeders.
Be sure to thoroughly rinse your feeders to prevent residual chlorine from being ingested by birds. Then, dry the feeders well before filling them again. Any remaining moisture could lead to mold and mildew that can cause rotten, unhealthy seed.
Also, take time to remove seed and droppings in nearby areas where birds congregate. Birds can spill seed and leave debris several feet away from feeders.
Clean birdfeeders and feeding areas will attract more birds and keep them healthier for birders to enjoy.
Additional information about diseases at bird feeders can be found at: Additional information about diseases at bird feeders can be found at:â€¨http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/publications/fact_sheets/coping_with_diseases_at_birdfeeders.jsp