Released June 19, 2007
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Moldy birdseed and unclean bird feeders can cause birds to become sick. In hot humid weather, it is common for mold to form on wet birdseed.
The mold can cause a fatal avian disease called aspergillosis, which affects the birds' respiratory systems, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Carrol Henderson, supervisor of the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program, urges people to rake or sweep up fallen seeds and seed hulls under their feeder to prevent moldy conditions from occurring on the ground.
"These seeds can also attract meadow voles, house mice or other rodents, and the growth inhibitor in sunflower hulls can cause problems with grass or flowers near the feeder."
Salmonella is another disease that affects birds and is associated with unclean feeders. According to Henderson, it is important to keep a bird feeder clean to minimize the threat of disease.
To clean bird feeders, Henderson suggests using a solution of two ounces of bleach with one gallon of water and scrub the entire surface. Allow the cleaned feeder to dry out in the sun, as the sunlight will help kill bacteria on the feeder. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned about every week to 10 days during the summer to keep the sugar water from producing mold. Keep feed dry by using a hopper-type feeder or a fly-through feeder. Scrape out old seed that accumulates in the corners. Tray feeders with a screen bottom will allow seeds to dry out from above and below after a rain shower.
"Remember not to put out too many seeds as once, because if the seeds are several inches thick, they can still become moldy in the center of a feeder with a screen bottom," Henderson said.
Black bears can also be a major nuisance at bird feeders. Henderson advises bringing feeders inside each evening or using bird baths, fountains, dusting sites and nest structures as alternative attractions for birds.
More information on attracting and feeding birds is available in "Wild about Birds: The DNR Bird Feeding Guide" and "Landscaping for Wildlife."
The books are available at Minnesota's Bookstore by calling (651) 297-3000 or toll-free (800) 657-3757. Production of these books was made possible by the donations to the Nongame Wildlife Fund on Minnesota income and property tax forms.