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Flying Colors: Proper Bird Feeder Care Important to Bird Health

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

So, you are driving down the road and you are very hungry. You pull over to a new place that you have never tried. But you notice the place is really crowded and looks very run down and dirty. Would you go in and try it?

Feeding the birds is a very popular hobby in North America, second only to gardening. With that many customers coming to our backyard restaurants, it is very important to provide birds with a safe feeding environment. Responsible bird feeding techniques are crucial in helping to keep birds healthy safe.

Normally, people who feed the birds do not receive complete and accurate information on bird diseases or how to safely offer food and water to the birds. It is essential for those who enjoy the bird feeding hobby to understand the importance of proper feeding methods to promote bird health.

When the hot and humid days of summer come upon us, the food we put out for the birds can become spoiled if not properly taken care off.  Many quality seed blends do not have shells. This unprotected food can become moldy and buggy if left out for too long. Heavy rains and humid days can also accelerate the spoiling process.

Wild Birds Unlimited Recommends Responsible Bird Feeding

The following strategies will help improve the health and safety of birds:

  • Clean bird feeders, bird baths and all hardware regularly with a 10 percent bleach (one part bleach to nine parts water) solution. Rinse thoroughly and allow to completely dry before refilling feeders.
  • Use Wild Birds Unlimited EcoClean Feeders. These feeders have a special technology built-in that keeps the feeders clean and there is no need for chlorine bleach.
  • Always keep the ground below and around feeders clean. Discard seed debris and bird droppings on a regular basis. One great way to do that is to purchase a small 6 gallon “Shopvac” from your local hardware store. This powerful tool will clean up the ground in a very short time.

Wear a simple painter’s mask to make sure you do not breathe in any dust or particles from the bird droppings. Then discard in a paper leaf bag for your trash collector. Seed Shells do not make good compost.

  • Give the birds more space. If using multiple feeders, place the feeders farther apart from one another. This will reduce crowding and the potential for disease transmission between sick and healthy birds.
  • Only use feeders that can be easily cleaned. Wooden feeders are difficult to sanitize. A fine grade sandpaper can be used to clean any dropping residue or potential mildew or mold.
  • Tray or platform feeders are fun to use. But if your area has too many birds visiting the feeder, you may need to use a cage cover over it to regulate the flow of breakfast, lunch and dinner avian guests. Think of the cage as a good bouncer at the door of your popular food establishment for the birds.
  • Limit the amount of seed you provide during these hot months. Offer only as much food as the birds will eat in one or two days. Rake up waste material in the area before refilling.
  • You can use Seed cylinders, which are condensed bird food that fits on special feeders. These are good to use if you are going out of town and want to leave your bird food restaurant open. Make sure you have a rain guard over the cylinder to protect it from too much rain. Some cylinders can last two to three weeks, depending on the size and type of cylinder.
  • Always discard any seed that has become wet.

Wild Birds Unlimited is committed to keeping everyone safe and informed about issues that may affect the hobby of bird feeding. People’s safety and the health of wildlife are our primary concern. Take some simple steps to keep your bird food restaurant healthy and the OPEN sign up.

For more information about backyard and responsible bird feeding practices, stop by Wild Birds Unlimited at 2437 N Harrison St, Arlington, VA, to speak with a Certified Bird Feeding Specialist.

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