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The winter months pose obvious challenges for birds. They need to find enough food during the daytime to keep their metabolism going throughout the long, cold nights. This can be difficult when there is so much snow and ice like we have seen this winter, and many birds search for the easiest sources of food—bird feeders. This brings diseased birds in close contact with one another and can lead to outbreaks.
Responsible feeder watchers recognize the symptoms of common avian diseases:
- Salmonellosis—birds are puffed up, lethargic, thin, and may have swollen eyelids
- Conjunctivitis (AKA House Finch Eye Disease)—eyes are red, swollen, runny, and may be crusty or even swollen shut
- Avian Pox—this virus results in wart-like growths appear on bare parts such as around the eyes, bill, legs, and feet
- Aspergillosis—a fungus that attacks a bird’s respiratory system, outwardly causing difficulty in breathing and walking, emaciation, thirst, and sometimes the eyes appear opaque
- Trichomoniasis—a protozoan carried by pigeons and doves and spreads through water sources that causes lesions in the mouth and prevents birds from being able to close their bill
Regularly cleaning your feeders is the key to preventing the spread of avian diseases. Clean feeders every two weeks with soapy water followed by soaking in a 1:9 bleach solution. Let them dry thoroughly before refilling. Remove seeds dropped on the ground and consider moving your feeders on a regular basis. Bird baths and hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every time you fill them.
Watching birds in our backyards can be an enjoyable and even educational experience. Responsible feeding helps ensure that birds will keep returning to your backyard throughout the seasons, and gives you peace-of-mind in knowing that you are not contributing another challenge to their survival.
You can explore all the birds reported last week in