The Ornithology WebSite

Clean Your Bird Houses
to Prevent Disease

Oregon State University, News and Communication Services

Imagine a fast food joint where nobody ever cleaned the kitchen, the tables or the bathrooms. Now think about your bird feeder. When is the last time you cleaned it?

Autumn is a good time of year to check and clean up your bird feeders for the winter feeding season.

Like a crowded restaurant constantly used by a large group of customers, a bird feeder needs some sanitation practices to protect visiting birds from disease, explained Dan Edge, wildlife specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Four diseases commonly affect birds using feeders:

Salmonellosis: The most commonly spread disease at feeders is caused by the "Salmonella" group of bacteria. Birds can die quickly from this disease. Symptoms include abscesses in the lining of the upper digestive tract of the birds. Infected birds spread the bacteria in their droppings. Other birds get sick when infected droppings land on food.

Trichomoniasis: It is caused by a one-celled protozoan parasite. Mourning doves are particularly susceptible. Trichomoniasis cause sores in birds' mouths and throats, making it difficult for birds to swallow or drink. The disease spreads when sick birds drop contaminated food or water at a feeder or watering area.

Aspergillosis: A mold that grows on damp feed and in the debris beneath feeders. Birds inhale the mold spores and infection spreads in the lungs, causing bronchitis and pneumonia.

Avian Pox: A virus that causes wartlike growths on featherless surfaces of a bird's face, feet legs or wings. The virus spreads by direct contact, by insects or by viruses shed on food by infected birds.

To minimize the spread of disease at your feeder, make sure you practice sound bird feeding sanitation, Edge suggests:

By Carol Savonen, 541-737-3380
SOURCES: Dan Edge and John Loegering, 541-737-1953

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