How to avoid spreading disease of backyard birds

How to avoid spreading disease of backyard birds

It’s not expensive to feed birds at the backyard and there’s no question learning about birds behavior at our backyard feeding station is beautiful and relaxing. However, if not committing to routinely cleaning bird feeders, then feeders really should be taken down.

It causes one to wonder what kind of an impact backyard feeders are having on birds as with most things there are some positives and negatives one especially. The obvious impact is that feeders help to increase a bird's survival during harsh conditions like heavy snowfall or during cold snaps. 

However,Bird feeders can also be a breeding ground for disease and bacteria, which cause so much devastation to the health and population of birds, if a sick bird visited the feeder and you did not clean it properly. The disease is spread at feeders when an infected bird rubs its face on the perch or sticks its beak or head into the feeder holes.

Do feeders spread disease

As we know that, feeders offer us an up-close view of birds, and there’s lots of fun watching birds and learning their behavior. To birds, feeders are the most easy way for them to secure food, as every bird has its need for food, especially when their health is compromised. You might see a sick bird at your backyard sometime if you have been feeding them for a long time.

Many disease are spread at bird feeders including salmonellosis, trichomoniasis, avian pox, and others. Because when a sick bird comes to the feeder, it has spread to other species when an infected bird rubs its face on the perch or sticks its beak or head into the feeder holes. These disease can be controlled and prevented by proper use and regular cleaning of feeders.

Whenever a sick bird comes to your feeder, it’s better that you remove the feeders that the sick bird is using for a couple of weeks to ensure that disease is not being spread  and to give birds a chance to disperse. While the feeders are down, please clean your feeders and feeder area thoroughly. Please keep in mind that prevention is the key to avoiding the spread of disease.

It will make thing better if you have a smart bird feeder at your yard. As it will notify you of every visiting birds, through the camera, you can tell if feather visitor is healthy or not by the APP on your cell phone. With this feature, you can decide when you should take down the feeder and get it clean up.



What are the most common disease in feeder birds

There are five most common diseases that can be transmitted to birds at feeders. It’s obvious that sick birds have very visible signs of infection ,such as swollen eyes and sores. They are more puffed up than others and remain like that even in warm or mild temperatures when they shouldn't be.

Firstly, salmonellosis, commonly called salmonella, is the most common bird feeder disease. All bird species are receptive to this. Over the winter, across western united states we are seeing a bad breakout with pine systems which suffers the greatest.

Secondly, mycoplasma is an eye disease caused by a bacterium. Generally, house finches seem to be the most susceptible, but goldfinches and other feeder birds can also be infected, which is especially transmitted by feeders. Its symptoms include swollen crusty eyes, and the worse thing is that birds eventually go blind and unable to find food, which will lead them to starve to death. The bacterium remains infectious for 12 to 24 hours on the surface of beaters

Thirdly, trichomoniasis, you may hear it referred to as French. When birds of prey are infected, this disease is spread by single-celled microscopic parasites and it affects pigeons doves, finches and others infected birds. It develops sores in their mouths and throats, which makes them unable to swallow the seed or water. And birds will drop the food, contaminating the supply which will infect other birds.

Fourthly, mold can cause aspergillosis from a fungus that grows on damp see and the debris that collects under bird feeders. Birds inhale the spores resulting in bronchitis and pneumonia. It is usually fatal.

 The last one is avian pox, a virus that causes slow-growing wart-like growths on the bird's feet leg faces and other unfeathered areas. All bird species are susceptible to this virus. It is spread by ingesting food and water contaminated by sick birds or through contact with contaminated surfaces such as bird feeders.


Tips to avoid spreading diseases in feeder birds.

Any birder or nature lover does not want to cause devastation like any of the diseases i mentioned. Especially since it's completely avoidable just simply by keeping feeders regularly cleaned or taking them down when there is an outbreak or after seeing a sick bird at feeders.It has been advised to take feeders down for places experiencing this salmonella outbreak so that the birds will disperse off and rely solely on natural food sources helping to stop further spread of the disease.

I should also mention that while it is uncommon for people to get sick from handling bird feeders that may be contaminated the risk is there which is why feeders should be promptly cleaned when taken in and not left hanging around and of course we should always thoroughly wash our hands afterwards.

 so what is the proper way to go about keeping feeders and the area around clean.I found some great information from Cornell lab of ornithology on the matter. It is suggested that bird feeders should be cleaned once every two weeks but better more frequently if there is heavy activity. This applies to not just feeders but bird baths too. Researchers in Pennsylvania did a study where they found out that the most effective way is to reduce levels of salmonella bacteria on wild feeders. Here is what you should do to clean up the feeders.

Scrubbing the feeder with soap and hot water, after that soak it in bleach solution.

Regardless of what cleaning method, the feeders with debris and waste on them had more bacteria. Even after cleaning the feeders,  if these debris laden feeders only received a soap and water treatment, there was still enough salmonella left to risk disease transmission.

By the way, if there is still some seeds left in your feeders when you take it in to clean don't reuse those seeds just discard them, which is why it's probably best to take in feeders when they are empty or at least nearly empty. So in cases where there are a lot of waste and debris build up on your feeders, the best thing to do is to scrub them as long as necessary to get rid of all visible waste before actually cleaning them. Removing debris and waste is as simple as using a brush and some hot water to scrub the entire feeder after that's done scrub them in a mild dish washing soap rinse them and then soak them in a diluted bleach solution and then rinse them again thoroughly and let them dry completely before adding bird feed. Bird bats need to be cleaned in this way too.


You should not forget that the ground below feeders often has fallen seeds and there are many birds that feed on the ground such as jungles and other sparrows. To prevent contamination there are a few things you can do. For one try, to routinely rake up fallen seed on the ground and discard them. You can use an outdoor shop vacuum or leaf vacuum to collect the material preventing seed from ever reaching the ground. Below is a better option though and can be done by using wide seed trays nets or platforms below feeders to catch any fallen seeds

Provide another space for birds to feed which will help minimize any remaining debris or waste and help keep any rodents like rats away too could also try placing feeders on or above a concrete stone or wooden deck or patio that way the seeds will not become embedded in the grass or flower beds doing it in this way allows you to easily sweep or vacuum any spillage another very helpful tip to keeping down on seed accumulation on the ground is to only provide enough seed for a single day's feeding.

This will encourage birds to eat everything rather than tossing excess seed to get the best ones as blue jays tend to do.

Hummingbird feeders also need special and proper cleaning. Here are all the proper steps and ways to go about keeping hummingbird feeders properly sanitary.  The best you can do is try to remember to keep beaters as sanitary as possible and if it gets to be too much maybe take them down for a while until it's more achievable with keeping up on cleaning them.

After all we only want to provide the best experience for our delightful guests if there are some things i missed please by all means comment below any other helpful tips and info is highly beneficial to help everyone give our birds and ourselves the best experience.

Please spread these words, and encourage your neighbors or friends who feed birds follow the same precautions. It’s not just my feeder in my own backyard it’s part of a network across the whole landscape. So we have to take responsibility for what we are doing

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