February is National Bird Feeding Month!
Feeding birds can be very rewarding and it can often help birds make it through cold and snowy winters, but did you know that feeding birds without routinely cleaning their feeders could make them very sick? Just like it would be unsanitary for hundreds of humans to eat from the same plate for weeks, it is also unsanitary for birds to do the same! Uncleaned feeders can harbour diseases like avian pox and salmonellosis, which have symptoms like skin lesions, swollen mouths and throats, and weakness.
Both seed and nectar feeders (and bird baths!) need to be scrubbed at least every two weeks with soap and water and/or a mild bleach solution. Dishwashers are also a good option. Although a "natural" cleaner may seem like a good idea, many essential oils are poisonous to birds and the oil residues left on the feeder could make them sick. Uneaten seed should also not be put back into a cleaned feeder.
Because some bird diseases can be transmitted to humans, it is important to wear gloves when handling and cleaning feeders.
Help the Audubon Society keep tabs on bird populations by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count! Even if you are a birding beginner, click the link to get involved: