Although the periods of warm weather we have experienced this winter have reduced our home heating bills and provided the opportunity for us to spend more time outside, it has increased the chances that the birds visiting our feeders can contract a life-threatening disease.  As such, reports of sick and dying birds are beginning to crop up.

        The two main culprits in these die-offs are typically salmonella and aspergillosis.  These diseases are extremely deadly and can decimate the birds feeding in our backyards unless steps are taken to stem their spread.

        Aspergillosis is caused by a fungus.  Aspergillosis spores are produced by a green mold found naturally throughout the state.  Quail, turkeys, cardinals, sparrows, finches and other birds are highly susceptible to the disease.  The organism kills by infecting its victim’s throat and lungs.  Animals contract the disease by eating food infected with the spores.

        Salmonella is bacterial disease that attacks birds, mammals as well as reptiles and amphibians.  Salmonella bacteria are spread by animals eating food that has been contaminate by the droppings of animals infected with the disease. 

        Since both diseases flourish during any season of the year, as long as the weather is warm and wet, our abnormally warm winter will continue to promote conditions that encourage the harmful bacteria and mold to thrive on bird feeders and the waste seed and hulls found on the ground beneath them.

        Fortunately, you can greatly reduce the chances of birds contracting the diseases by taking a few simple steps.

        Periodically clean feeders and birdbaths with a cleaning solution composed of two ounces of bleach mixed with a gallon of water.   Thoroughly scrub each feeder and birdbath and then rinse with clean water.  Allow feeders to dry in the sun before refilling them with seed.

        Over time, both seeds and seed hulls build up beneath feeders.  Consequently, during periods of wet, warm weather you should rake up the seeds and hulls and dispose of them in the trash.  Periodically changing the locations of your feeders also helps thwart the spread of the diseases.  After cleaning the area, I also treat the ground with a solution of bleach and water.

        Researches have discovered sunflower hulls contain a play growth inhibitor.  By removing the hulls, you are ensuring that the grass or ornamental plants growing beneath the feeders will not be affected by the growth inhibitors.

        Keep all seed dry.  Avoid using feeding trays with solid floors.  If you scatter seed on the ground, during warm, damp weather only put out enough food to feed the birds for a single day.  Hopper-type feeders, feeding trays covered by roofs or feeding trays with screen bottoms help prevent the development of mold and bacteria.

        Your quick action can save the lives of countless birds and guarantee you will be able to watch a parade of birds throughout the entire year.


  1. Thank you so much for reminding us about this. I do try to clean my feeders and bird baths, but I know I do not do it often enough. I really had not thought about our weather doing this harm to our birds.


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