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Keep your bird feeders clean to prevent diseases

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Keep your bird feeders clean to prevent diseases

Scientists have warned that garden bird feeders are contributing to the spread of avian diseases. Even previously rare diseases are turning into epidemics amongst some bird species.

The Research
The study was conducted by the Zoological Society of London, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Fera Science. They looked at 25 years of data on wild bird health and found that there have been dramatic and worrying changes in bird diseases and how quickly they are able to spread.

Two diseases – Paridae pox and finch trichomonosis – have only emerged in recent years. However, they have affected large numbers of birds in what amounts to a disease epidemic. Finch trichomonosis, for example, has caused a 35% drop in the number of breeding greenfinches in the UK since the disease was first detected in 2005.

Researchers believe these trends could have been influenced by poor bird feeder hygiene. When so many birds congregate in the once place to feed, they come into contact with many more birds and more bird species than they would do naturally, thus allowing disease to spread more rapidly.

So what can we do to keep our garden birds well-fed and healthy too?

How to Keep Your Bird Feeders Clean
Boxwild founder, Ben Kane, stresses the importance of regularly cleaning the bird feeders we have in our gardens. He recommends cleaning bird feeders every month or so.

“Cleaning a bird feeder is a fairly straightforward process,” he says, “Fill a bucket with hot, soapy water. Or, even better, a 5% disinfectant solution. Then thoroughly scrub the bird feeder, removing any residual food or droppings. Rinse with clean water and allow the feeder to dry completely before refilling and rehanging it.

Other Advice for Keeping Garden Birds Healthy
But it’s not just keeping bird feeders clean that will help our garden birds to stay healthy, Ben says. “Another way in which disease is carried amongst bird populations is via droppings and stale food that sometimes accumulate under a feeder. Therefore, it’s really important to move your feeders around the garden so that food waste and droppings aren’t falling onto the same patch for months at a time.”

In addition, Ben says we should keep an eye on how quickly the food in our feeders gets eaten. “You don’t want it hanging around for days,” he says, “Birds should empty a feeder in one to two days so we need to add feed regularly, but in moderation.”

By following a few simple bird feeding hygiene tips we can help to prevent the spread of bird diseases. Clean feeders, relocate them regularly and provide the right amount of good quality bird feed to ensure your garden birds stay happy and healthy.

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  • Nikki Boxwild