Three Easy but Important Ways to Keep Your Bird Feeders Disease-Free

Make sure you're helping, not harming, your feathered visitors with these simple steps.
Feeding birds is a wonderful way to help avian visitors fuel up for migration or make it through a tough winter. It can also provide great opportunities for wildlife photography and observation. But it’s not enough to put out a feeder and fill it regularly. You need to clean it out, or you risk inadvertently causing the birds that visit to get sick. The same goes for birdbaths.
Some of the more common diseases that birds can spread through feeders include house finch eye disease (the colloquial name for mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, which can infect more than just the bird for which it’s named), salmonellosis (caused by salmonella bacteria), aspergillosis (a fungal respiratory disease), avian pox, and avian flu. If you see a sick bird or one you suspect died from a disease outbreak, don’t pick it up or try to treat it yourself. Instead, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator or call the National Wildlife Health Center for instructions. 
To prevent the spread of illness in the birds that frequent your seed buffet, try these three steps:

Clean feeders regularly 

The National Wildlife Health Center recommends cleaning bird baths and feeders with a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach. (If there is visible debris, such as feces, scrub it off before soaking in the bleach solution.) Dry out the feeder before hanging it back up. Project FeederWatch, a joint effort between Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada, recommends cleaning seed feeders every two weeks or so. Double the frequency of cleaning if you suspect the presence of disease at all. It's always better to be safe than sorry. 

Tidy below the feeder

This can mean raking or shoveling up feces and hulls (seed casings)particularly those that are moldy, wet, or spoiledand throwing them out, Project Feederwatch recommends. That’ll also help prevent scattered food from attracting rodents. On snow-covered lawns, scraping off a few layers of white stuff should do the trick. 

Share the wealth

Disease spreads more easily in confined spaces and when groups are concentrated, so having multiple feeders can help prevent disease. Spreading out food among a few feeders provides less opportunities for sick birds to touch and contaminate others, says the National Wildlife Health Center.