When was the last time you cleaned your backyard bird feeder? How about your bird bath? It's unfortunate that the beneficial act of providing birds with food and water can be potentially life threatening to them. A variety of bacteria, fungi and parasites can plague birdseed feeders, particularly if the seed has become damp or wet. Unclean birdbaths and transmit avian diseases, as well.
Potential avian illnesses include:
o Salmonella, one of the most common bacterial diseases found at feeders and can kill birds quickly. It is spread among birds through direct contact at crowded feeders and also through ingestion of food or water tainted with infected avian fecal material.
o Aspergillosis, a common respiratory infection in birds caused by a fungus which grows on decaying seed.
o Trichomoniasis, a parasitic protozoan ailment that affects the digestive tracts of pigeons, doves, and even hawks that feed on these birds.
o Avian Pox, a virus distributed by direct contact of infected birds, contact with contaminated surfaces such as perches and bird feeders, and through ingestion of water and food that has been polluted by sick birds or carcasses of dead birds. The virus causes growths to form in the mouth, throat and respiratory system, resulting in difficulty breathing or swallowing.
If you have more than one feeder make sure you space them well apart to avoid crowding. Use only fresh, high quality bird seed and keep rodents out of the food. Rats and mice can carry bird diseases.
Cleaning feeders and birdbaths regularly with a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) is critical to the health and well being of our backyard friends. Clean at least once a month, always outdoors and rinse cleaned feeders and birdbaths thoroughly to remove all traces of the bleach solution. Cleaning should always be done away from any place human food is prepared. Wash your hands well when finished. Some of these pathogens like Salmonella are potentially harmful to humans, as well.