Although WildCare generally doesn’t recommend feeding wildlife, they suggest that if you are putting out food for your local songbirds, always make sure you’re doing it responsibly to mitigate the potential for harm. As February is National Bird Feeding Month, here are some tips:
1. Keep feeders clean. Seed feeders can get damp or moldy, and decomposing leftover seed hulls and feces can harbor contaminants that make birds sick. Wash and disinfect feeders every week using soap and hot water followed by a dilute (9:1) bleach solution soak for 20 minutes. Only refill the feeder once it’s completely dry.
2. Keep an eye out for sick birds. If you notice one or more unwell birds frequenting your feeder, remove the feeder right away and disinfect thoroughly, but wait a few weeks before putting it back out. Avian pox, Mycoplasma and Salmonella spread easily at feeders.
3. Clean below the feeder. To prevent a buildup of discarded seed hulls and feces, use a garden hose to rinse away debris from underneath the feeding area. Diseases are readily spread when birds congregate in the same area, often below hanging seed feeders.
4. Bring all bird food indoors at night to prevent unwanted nocturnal scavengers, such as rodents, from stopping by for a snack.
5. If you feed hummingbirds, make sure to change the sugar water (that’s one part sugar to four parts water) every three to five days to prevent spoiling or dangerous fermentation, especially in warmer weather. Clean feeders thoroughly between refills, but don’t use soap or detergent. Hot water, a bottle brush and Fa diluted vinegar soak are the safest ways to keep hummingbird feeders clean and safe.