Feed The Birds


As our winged friends continue to migrate to their summer homes, we all want them to stop at our feeders. Some will stay for a day and others will stay for the summer.

There are some rules you need to follow if you are feeding the birds.

Bruce Ehresman, Retired DNR Bird Ecologist and Anna Buckardt Thomas, Current DNR Bird Ecologist, tell us to be extra vigilant about keep our bird feeders clean.

“Each year in Iowa, especially during late winter, our office receives reports of sick or dead birds at feeder locations, particularly in the southern part of the state. Aspergillosis, a disease caused by a fungus which often grows in contaminated feed or litter, is one of the main causes of sick and/or dying birds at feeders. When the temperature warms, fungus quickly grows. Birds feeding on contaminated grain often become sick and die.”

Salmonellosis is another disease that is contracted at feeders.

Some of the finches that appear to be sick have “house finch disease” or conjunctivitis, a disease which causes swelling of the eye tissue but is not always fatal.

“The good news about these diseases is that they are largely preventable. Practicing good hygiene at feeder stations is the key. Clean bird feeders and waterers with a 10 percent bleach solution about once each month. Make sure the feeder is dry before refilling it with seed. Of equal importance to disinfecting the feeder is cleaning up spilled seed and bird droppings below feeders. Be sure to wear rubber gloves while cleaning the feeders, since humans can contract some diseases, such as those caused by some Salmonella bacteria, from affected feeders or sick birds.”

If people find sick birds at their feeders they should take down their feeders for at least two weeks to help stop the spread of the disease and contact the DNR.

Information about sick birds help the DNR learn more about what diseases are infecting Iowa birds, how widespread the disease might be, and which bird species are most affected by a particular disease.

I also read about a hummingbird that could not retract her tongue. This information is from Wonders of Nature and Knowledge:

The hummingbird that could not retract her tongue was a sign of fungal spores that had germinated on her tongue or in her gullet. This was caused by folks mixing honey (or anything other than plain white sugar) with water. She will die because she can no longer feed.

Only use plain white sugar in your mixture of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. No organic - no raw - no brown sugar - no powdered sugar - no honey - no artificial sugar. Plain white sugar/water mixture is more similar to actual flower nectar.

Change the sugar water mixture every couple of days as it will start to ferment sitting out for days on end.

Good advise for everyone who feed the birds.


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