July: If You Can’t Clean Feeders Every Week, Stop Feeding Birds

House sparrow at bird feeder (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

13 July 2022

Mid to late summer is a good time to be a bird in Pennsylvania. Fruit is ripe, seeds are plentiful, insect food is everywhere and for raptors there are plenty of naive young animals to capture. With so much natural food available and with songbirds’ preference for insects in summer, birds are not dependent on backyard feeders in July.

You can safely bring in your bird feeders now. In fact, if you cannot clean your feeders every week, they are unsafe for birds. Highly pathogenic avian flu has ebbed this summer but there is apprehension that it will return during fall migration. And it’s not the only disease that kills birds.

Yesterday I encountered three dead or dying birds in my neighborhood within half a mile of each other: a house finch that fell over unless it propped itself on open wings, a dead fledgling robin standing in the street (below), and a fluffed house sparrow that could not walk.

Frozen in place: dead American robin fledgling standing in the street, 12 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

I have no idea what was killing them. It could have been a different reason for each species. I do know that if it was contagious, finches and sparrows would have spread it at bird feeders.

Clean your feeders every week. In hot weather clean your hummingbird feeder twice a week because the nectar spoils! Are you leaving on vacation? Bring your feeders in so you don’t lure the birds into an unsafe environment.

Feeder cleaning advice from Audubon Society of Western PA, April 2022

Be kind and thoughtful of your backyard birds by keeping your feeders clean.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons, ASWP and Kate St. John)

1 thought on “July: If You Can’t Clean Feeders Every Week, Stop Feeding Birds

  1. Thanks for this reminder Kate, I typically don’t bleach my hummingbird feeder but will start now. I started making smaller batches of sweet water so it doesn’t go bad. I have to make more before that happens as I run out. California is really heating up right now.

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