Health Implication of Bird Feeders

June 29, 2018

Health Implication of Bird Feeders

Bird feeding is beneficial to bird welfare and makes people feel more relaxed and connected with nature watching these little feathered friends, however, this practice may not always bring positive results to these birds.

Bird Feeders

Beautifully crafted feeders can become ecological traps, enticing birds to settle in an area that cannot support them once supplemental feeding has stopped. In those cases, feeders create a population level that cannot be sustained by natural levels of food.

There are times when feeding can affect the timing of a bird’s life in unexpected ways. A flock of birds breeding in suburban habitats with access to supplementary food breed earlier will find themselves out with natural food items which are important when rearing nestlings.

Extra food can lead to a decrease in breeding success rather than an increase and flurry of activity cause by bird feeding does not increase the birds’ risk of predation and the presence of feeders has been associated with lower levels of predation by domestic cats. Likewise, the spread of disease through the use of bird feeders had been identified.

An even better way to attract birds to your yard is to plant a mix of trees, shrubs, and flowers that provide natural food sources, cover, and nesting sites for birds. Providing natural sources of food rather than stocking bird feeders will reduce the concentration of birds in one area, thereby reducing the likelihood of healthy birds coming into close contact with sick birds.

People must be aware that in feeding birds, there is a risk of spreading diseases. It is recommended to include offering a variety of bird food from accredited sources, as provided in local pet stores or online stores like

Birds must be feed in moderation, feeders are typically emptied every one to two days; the regular cleaning of bird feeders; and rotation of feeding sites to avoid accumulation of waste food or bird droppings. People must educate themselves of the risks and what to do if symptoms of diseases are manifested.

Diseases can be spread through droppings or regurgitated food around bird feeders, and to combat the disease, feeders and feeder sites must be regularly disinfected and rotating the position of feeders in the garden must be rotated. The changing pattern of diseases must also be find out to ensure that garden birds can be safely fed.

Diseases and Bird feeders

While many people enjoy feeding birds, improperly maintained feeders can put birds at risk. Birdfeeders and bird baths can serve as reservoirs for several diseases found in birds including salmonellosis, trichomoniasis, aspergillosis, avian pox, and conjunctivitis.

If sick birds are noticed at feeders, stop feeding the birds, clean the feeders with a dilute (10 percent; one cup bleach to nine cups water) bleach solution, and wait three to four weeks before feeding the birds again. Properly maintained feeders can help reduce the spread of these diseases. Visit Birds Proper Hygiene for more information about bird hygiene.

Feeder Maintenance & Hygiene

Cleaning bird feeders and birdbaths is a crucial practice in preventing the spread of disease between birds. Birds with disease are less alert and less active. They are reluctant and feathers do not appear to be in good shape. Birds afflicted with Trichomoniasis typically develop sores in their mouths and throats.

Unable to swallow, they drop food or water contaminated with Trichomonads that other birds then consume, thus spreading the disease.

To prevent the transmission of certain diseases as Salmonellosis, Aspergillosis, and Avian Pox, one must give diligent attention to cleanliness in pursuit of responsible and rewarding bird feeding practices. Birds with disease are more likely to die from starvation, dehydration, predation, and severe weather, so protect them by following these tips.

The Diseases

Four diseases commonly affect those bird species that typically use feeders. This is an important distinction because not all bird species visit feeders.

Salmonellosis is a general term for any disease in animalsand people caused by a group of bacteria known by the Latin name Salmonella. Birds can die quickly if the Salmonella bacteria spread throughout the body.

Abscesses often form in the lining of the esophagus and crop as part of the infection process. Infected birds pass bacteria in their fecal droppings. Other birds get sick when they eat food contaminated by the droppings. Salmonellosis is the most common bird-feeder disease.

    The Trichomonads are a group of protozoan (one-celled microscopic) parasites that affect a broad variety of animals, including humans. One Trichomonads species afflicts only pigeons and doves.

    The popular and widespread Mourning Dove is particularly susceptible. Birds afflicted with Trichomoniasis typically develop sores in their mouths and throats.

      The Aspergillus fungus (mold) grows on damp feed and in the debris beneath feeders. Birds inhale the fungal spores and the fungus spreads through their lungs and air sacs, causing bronchitis and pneumonia.

        More noticeable than the other diseases, avian pox causes wart like growths on featherless surfaces of a bird’s face, wings, legs, and feet.

        The virus that causes pox is spread by direct contact with infected birds, by healthy birds picking up shed viruses on food or feeders, or by insects mechanically carrying the virus on their body. However, not all warty growths on birds are caused by the avian pox virus.

        The Disease Problems

        All four diseases can lead to death.

        Thus, sick birds are more vulnerable to starvation, dehydration, predation, and severe weather.You can spot sick birds in a crowd. They are less alert and less active. They feed less and often cower on a feeder, reluctant to fly. Their feathers look ill-kept.

        Despite these obvious symptoms, disease usually is overlooked as a complication of feeding birds. Certainly, the signs of illness are not as easily noticed as bright colors and cheery songs; but being inconspicuous does not make disease unimportant.

        The Precautions against Disease

        People who feed birds cannot ignore the disease issue. Eight relatively easy steps can be taken to prevent or minimize disease problems at feeders.

        Avoid crowding by providing ample feeder space. Lots of birds using a single feeder look wonderful, but crowding is a key factor in spreading disease. If birds have to jostle each other to reach the food, they are crowded. This crowding also creates stress which may make birds more vulnerable to disease.

          Keep the feeder area clean of waste food and droppings. A broom and shovel can accomplish a lot of good, but a vacuum such as you might use in your garage or workshop will help even more.

            Provide safe feeders without sharp points or edges. Even small scratches and cuts will allow bacteria and viruses to enter otherwise healthy birds.

              Clean and disinfect feeders regularly. Use one part of liquid chlorine household bleach in nine parts of tepid water (a 10 percent solution) to disinfect.

                Make enough solution to immerse an empty, cleaned feeder completely for two to three minutes. Allow to air dry. Once or twice a month should do, but weekly could help more if you notice sick birds at your feeders.

                Discard any food that smells musty, is wet, looks moldy or has fungus growing on it. Disinfect any storage container that holds spoiled food and the scoop used to fill feeders from it.

                  Keep rodents out of stored food. Mice can carry and spread some bird diseases without being affected themselves.

                    Don’t wait to act until you see sick or dead birds. With good prevention you’ll seldom find sick or dead birds at your feeders.

                      Encourage your neighbors who feed birds to follow the same precautions. Birds normally move among feeders and can spread diseases as they go. The safest birdfeeders will be those in communities where neighbors cooperate with equal concern for the birds.

                        The Pros and Cons of Backyard Bird Feeders

                        The Positive Side

                        Bird feeding attracts more birds as robins, blue jays, starlings, sparrows, crows, and mockingbirds. There are also wrens, cardinals, black-capped chickadees, goldfinches, catbirds, vireos, and other songbirds. The diversity is great, and it is lovely to see and enjoy listening to them singing around you and in the trees.

                        When the weather is cold and harsh in wintertime, and food and water are scarce, bird feeders ( as well as bird baths or ponds can make a difference. Survival of birds reaches a higher rate of 69% when they had access to human-provided seed than those without (only 37 percent).

                        In urban areas, where there is difficulty in looking for food among cemented buildings and pavement, bird feeders are valuable.

                        They minimize the effect of habitat loss and climate change and well fed birds build better nests, lay stronger eggs and raise harder babies.

                        During bird migration in spring and fall and they fly great distances, bird feeders help birds survive the journey and increase their reproductive success.

                        Bird feeders being set up at Nature centers to lure birds so people who want to learn more about birds can come and see. There are communities that turn bird feeding into a tourist attraction that creates resources to protect these birds. The feeders are set up at a distance, and tourists sit in blinds or shacks far enough away so they will not disturb the birds but can still see them well, especially if they use binoculars. More information can be found here: Bird Feeder Ideas.

                        The Negative Side

                        Bird feeders attract rats, squirrels and other pests because they feed on spilled seed and hulls from cracked seeds that litter the ground.When birds alight on the ground to eat fallen bird seed, hawks and cats are always on the lookout for them who learned to lie and wait for these defenseless birds. They easily fall prey to their predators- the hawks and cats.

                        When birds concentrate around a feeder, parasites and diseases spread more easily. Some may even die at feeders during outbreaks of diseases.

                        Bird feeders may attract so many animals – winged and otherwise – that other birds might not feel comfortable building nests, laying eggs, and staying with the babies once they hatch.

                        When positioned close to a window, birds can get disoriented and fly into the glass, which usually kills them. The solution, of course, is to position the feeders a safe distance away from the glass

                        Bird feeders need to be cleaned regularly, adding to household chores that might already take a lot of time. Plus, the ground under a bird feeder should be raked or shoveled to get rid of the debris that accumulates under the feeders. Some feeders need to be replenished every day or two, depending on how many birds they attract.

                        And Remember…

                        Bird seed can be costly and an extra expense. Even if you buy it more cheaply in bulk, over time, the purchases will add up.

                        Bird seed could be toxic to birds as a company may falsify pesticide registration documents and distribute them with misleading and unapproved labels. It is absolutely essential to fill bird feeders with seed that is organic and has not been treated with pesticides.

                        Birds do get sick. Disease is one of many natural processes affecting wild species. Sick birds do show up at feeders, and other birds can get sick as a consequence.Just because bird feeding is not problem-free does not mean that it is bad or should be stopped. It does mean you have an ethical obligation not to jeopardize wild birds. What is called for is intelligent bird feeding.

                        Bird feeding seems like the perfect out-door activity. People can learn a lot while they enjoy helping birds. As ideal as bird feeding may seem, it carries some risk for birds that visit the feeders and some responsibility for people who do the feeding.

                        Follow the precautions listed above, and you can continue to enjoy feeding healthy wild birds. You might also try to visit Health Issues of Avian for more ideas in your bird’s health.

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