Bird Feeder Maintenance

At the end of a brutal winter, we started feeding wild birds again. Prolonged snow cover, not to mention the relentless cold, made it feel like an act of compassion for our feathered friends.

House Finch

It took two trips, and about two hundred dollars or more, to get fully equipped by our new friend Knox, who owns the Pittsburgh South Hills WILD BIRDS UNLIMITED store. We joined his annual club during the second visit, earning discounts and a free 5 lbs. bag of bird food.

Three feeders of different types
  • One for the general wild bird population that uses ‘No Mess’ bird food,
  • the second feeder mostly for finches with nyjer thistle seed,
  • and a ‘Problem Solver’ feeder using a compressed cartridge of Safflower seed.

The ‘problem solving’ part came when a flock of Grackles appeared. You’ll notice our seed tube feeder now has a green cage that fits around it, only allowing smaller birds to enter. In the third feeder, the ‘Hot Pepper No Mess’ Cylinder seen below was changed to a Safflower Seed Cylinder, for the same reason.

Time to clean our bird feeders

Other than filling the feeders with seed, I pretty much thought we were done, until I read a March 5th story in The Seattle Times, “Washington state officials recommend bird feeders be left down.”

Because bird feeders continue to be a way the disease salmonellosis is spread among birds, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has extended a recommendation to keep feeders down until at least April 1. Fish and Wildlife first asked residents to remove or clean feeders in February as a response to a die-off of finches, such as pine siskins, as well as other songbirds.
Salmonellosis is a common and usually fatal bird disease caused by the salmonella bacteria. When birds flock together in large numbers at feeders, they can transmit the disease through droppings or saliva. In 2007, Lehman said, an outbreak led the department to act. “That one started in June and it lasted until October,” Lehman said. “It’s our hope this one will not be that long.”

Vince Richardson/Skagit Valley Herald
So I checked with local bird blogger, Kate St. John, who publishes the OUTSIDE MY WINDOW blog

Kate’s blog “Clean Your Bird Feeders” put it all in perspective by adding this bullet list summary from The Spruce…

  • Clean your bird equipment every 2 weeks, more often when a lot of birds are visiting. Crowding spreads disease.
  • Empty the feeder; throw away dirty seed! (I’ve learned this lesson, too. I once had mold in the nyger feeder.)
  • Mix the cleaning solution: 1 part bleach to 9 parts hot water
  • Take feeder apart and soak it to loosen dirt.
  • Then clean thoroughly
  • Dry thoroughly
  • Reassemble and refill. Ta dah!
Today was the first cleaning go-round

After allowing birds to empty feeders most of the way, I cleaned out a 5-gallon plastic pail, then added one-third-gallon of bleach to 3 gallons of water. This provided a good “dunking” container for all the various sized parts, which I allowed to soak for a minute, before rinsing them off with water. I wore rubber gloves to protect my skin, and protective glasses or goggles would provide additional protection for your eyes against splashing.

It will take a few hours for everything to dry on this cool, sunny day. In the meantime, the birds will just have to wonder where the feeders went!

Think Spring!

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