SCDNR Issues Reminder to Keep Your Bird Feeders Clean

A bird sitting on a bird feeder.

Winter in South Carolina typically brings more chances for rain to the state, and with wet weather, it is common for mold or bacteria to form on wet bird seed both in the bird feeder and on the ground.

This moldy bird seed and uncleaned bird feeders can cause birds to become sick. Specifically, mold can cause fatal avian diseases.

The risk is greatly reduced when bird feeders are cleaned regularly.

If you have a bird feeder, please keep this in mind:

  • Seed feeders should be thoroughly cleaned at least once per month with one-part liquid chlorine bleach to nine-parts hot water. Allow the feeders to air dry completely, especially wooden feeders, before refilling with seeds. Nectar feeders need special care because of their design.
  • Nectar feeders should be cleaned each time they are refilled. Clean feeders using four-parts hot water to one-part vinegar or nine-parts hot water to one-part bleach using a special bottle brush to clean small holes. Visually inspect the entire feeder for black mold. Rinse all parts of the feeder with water for at least three times and allow it to air dry completely before refilling.
  • Store food in a cool area in rodent- and water- proof containers. Dispose of any food that is wet, smells musty, or appears moldy.
  • Inspect feeder for sharp points or edges that can scratch or cut birds. Even small injuries can enable bacteria and viruses to infect otherwise healthy birds.
  • Use multiple feeders and spread them out over a large area to reduce crowding. While seeing several birds at a single feeder may look appealing, the potential for disease transmission between sick and healthy birds increases.
  • Don’t wait until sick or dead birds are seen before cleaning feeders. But if the situation should occur, it is best to stop feeding immediately. Remove the dead bird by wearing rubber gloves and placing the bird in a plastic, leak proof bag. Dispose of the sealed bag and rubber gloves in a normal trash receptacle out of reach of pets or scavengers. Wash hands immediately. Clean all feeders and the surrounding area following these guidelines and wait at least two weeks before rehanging feeders.

Visit the SCDNR website for more tips and information.