Thursday, 20 January 2011

Keep wild bird feeders clean

Many people like to put our feeders for wild birds, particularly during the worse winter months when birds are more likely to come into gardens searching for food as it is scarce in the wild - when snow is lying on the ground or when most water is frozen.
Many people will repeatedly refill feeders as it is used up, often before the feeder is empty, leaving a portion of the food at the bottom of the feeder that is never eaten.
Many feeders are difficult for birds to completely empty and these tend to hold uneaten food for some time. Put that together with dampness caused by the ingress of rain (few feeders are waterproof) and you have the ideal conditions for the growth of fungi. Once fungi such as Aspergillus grow several things can happen

  1. they can start to produce highly toxic mycotoxins
  2. they can produce spores that can kill an unhealthy bird
  3. 1. can increase the chances of  2. happening!
For the most part when there is plenty of food around my impression is that wild birds will avoid old food, but it is still possible that birds will regularly visit the food, risking infection. When weather conditions are harsh they may be forced to eat old food.

This news article highlights many other consequences of leaving food out until it becomes old, there are many infections that they can contract from poorly maintained feeders.

It is not safe to assume that because these birds live off the ground in the wild that they can tolerate dirty feeders or old food that has become mouldy. Try to ensure no food is left out for long periods of time. If it is uneaten then discard it, thoroughly wash the feeder in 1/10 diluted bleach/water (it may have to be partially dismantled to do a thorough job), dry and refill it. The writers of the article also recommend raking out the area under the feeder to prevent ground feeder having to feed off soiled ground.

Once you have done all that you may well be surprised at the number of birds that come visiting!

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