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Cleaning Feeders Could Prevent Birds From Getting Sick This Winter

Tim Akimoff
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife


The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said they are seeing an increase in reports of sick birds on yards and at feeders. The ODFW recommends people disinfect bird feeders more often.


According to the ODFW, increased reports of sick birds is not unusual during the winter. A high-energy seed meal at a bird feeder can bring in lots of congregating birds.

But if feeders aren’t cleaned often, that could increase the chance of disease transmission of salmonella, E. coli, viruses, parasites, fungal diseases, and other bacteria. Bird species such as pine siskins, nuthatches, chickadees and other seed-eating backyard birds are some of the most common species affected by these diseases.

ODFW said community members can diminish bird diseases from spreading by doing the following:

  • Provide fresh seed purchased recently, and using feeders made from non-porous material—such as plastic, ceramic, and metal—which are less likely than wood to harbor bacteria and other diseases.

  • Clean feeders, water containers and bird baths monthly by rinsing with soapy water and then dunking the feeder in a solution of one-third cup of chlorine bleach per one gallon of water. Community members with large numbers of birds at feeders may consider cleaning them weekly.

  • Take down feeders and stop feeding for several weeks to a month if there are bird deaths at your feeder. Clean old seed hulls and waste below the feeders by raking, shoveling, or sweeping material and discarding in the trash.

People are also encouraged to call ODFW at 866-968-2600, email Wildlife.Health@state.or.us, or contact a local wildlife rehabilitator if you see sick birds.


Copyright 2020, KLCC.


Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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