Responsible Bird Feeding

Avian Diseases and Feeding Birds

If you enjoy feeding and watching your backyard birds, then you probably want to do as much as you can to practice your hobby safely and ensure the birds’ overall health and well-being. While the incidence of birds falling ill from feeders is small compared to other natural hazards birds face, there are things you can do to help your birds stay healthy.

  • Provide multiple feeding stations in different areas of your yard to disperse bird activity.

  • Provide seed from a bird feeder rather than scattering it on the ground.

  • Keep areas clean under and around your feeders.

  • Keep fresh seed in the feeder and be sure it doesn’t get moldy.

  • Clean Your Feeders Before Refilling! 
    - You should clean your bird feeders regularly with a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water with a brush that will allow you to scrub the inside.
    - Rinse and dry thoroughly before you refill. 

The following strategies will help improve the health and safety of birds when the spread of avian diseases is a concern.

  • If feeder birds are exhibiting disease symptoms, then remove all feeders for a week to 10 days so local birds can disperse and utilize natural food sources.

  • Clean and sanitize all bird feeders, bird baths and hardware with a 10% bleach (one part bleach to nine parts water) solution. Rinse thoroughly and allow to completely dry before refilling feeders. Continue to sanitize feeders every few days.

  • Rake up and discard seed debris and bird droppings from the ground below and around feeders. Continue to clean these areas on a regular basis.

  • Give the birds more space. If using multiple feeders, place the feeders farther apart from one another. This will reduce crowding, lower stress and lessen the potential for disease transmission between sick and healthy birds. 

  • Only use feeders that can be easily cleaned. Replace wooden feeders with ones made of plastic or recycled materials for easier cleaning.

  • Bird feeders with cracks and crevices are difficult to sanitize and should not be used.

  • Remove open tray and platform feeders that allow fecal material and food to come into contact with each other.

  • Use antimicrobial bird feeders such as Wild Birds Unlimited EcoClean® Feeders. These feeders have built-in antimicrobial product protection on the treated surfaces.

  • Limit the amount of seed you provide. Offer only as much food as the birds will eat in one or two days.

  • Store all bird seed in rodent- and insect-proof containers to avoid contamination.

  • Always discard any seed that has become wet, moldy or foul smelling.

If you find a dead bird:

  • Avoid handling sick birds with bare hands. 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after filling bird feeders.

  • Call the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division at 1-800-WILDLIFE to report the bird.

For other tips or questions, stop by our store and talk to one of our Certified Bird Feeding Specialists.