South Carolina rains more often in the winter. This causes mold and bacteria to form on wet bird seed in bird feeders and on the ground. Mold and bacteria can cause birds to become sick. Specifically, mold can cause fatal avian diseases.
Clean bird feeders reduces the risk greatly.
Bird Feeder Maintenance:
- Clean seed feeders at least once per month with one-part liquid chlorine bleach to nine-parts hot water. Allow the feeders to air dry completely, especially wooden feeders, before refilling with seeds.
- Nectar feeders need special care because of their design. Nectar feeders should be cleaned each time they are refilled. Clean feeders using four-parts hot water to one-part vinegar or nine-parts hot water to one-part bleach using a special bottle brush to clean small holes. Visually inspect the entire feeder for black mold. Rinse all parts of the feeder with water for at least three times and allow it to air dry completely before refilling.
- Store food in a cool area in rodent- and water- proof containers. Dispose of any food that is wet, smells musty, or appears moldy.
- Inspect feeder for sharp points or edges that can scratch or cut birds. Even small injuries can enable bacteria and viruses to infect otherwise healthy birds.
- Use multiple feeders and spread them out over a large area to reduce crowding. While seeing several birds at a single feeder may look appealing, the potential for disease transmission between sick and healthy birds increases.
- Don’t wait until sick or dead birds are seen before cleaning feeders. Remove the dead bird by wearing rubber gloves and placing the bird in a plastic, leak proof bag. Dispose of the sealed bag and rubber gloves in a normal trash receptacle out of reach of pets or scavengers. Wash hands immediately. Clean all feeders and the surrounding area following these guidelines and wait at least two weeks before rehanging feeders.
- This year, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) asked residents to remove feeders until early spring.
An increase in Pine Siskins deaths and other species prompted the warning.
Pine Siskins are more susceptible than other species to getting sick from dirty bird feeders. Those who have bird feeders should take them down until early April, when Pine Siskins have begun to migrate north.
While many South Carolinians enjoy feeding wild birds, those who have bird feeders must ensure their bird feeders stay clean. Without adequate care, bird feeders can harm, rather than benefit, the local bird population. Dirty feeders can harbor spoiled feed, seed hulls, and waste which can become a source of bacteria, mold, and transmissible diseases between birds.