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Are We Killing Birds With Kindness?

Posted by at 1:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


Are We Killing Birds With Kindness? by Alisa Mullins

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A recent alarming story in the U.K.’s Daily Mail reminds us that backyard birdfeeders can provide perils as well as perks for birds. According to the British Trust for Ornithology, diseases spread by birdfeeders that aren’t cleaned regularly have killed up to one-fifth of Britain’s greenfinches. In the U.S., an estimated 60 percent of house finches have been wiped out by an infectious eye disease called “mycoplasmal conjunctivitis.”

In order to prevent diseases like salmonella, trichomaniasis, and avian pox that can be spread by dirty birdfeeders and birdbaths, the Audubon Society recommends cleaning feeders and baths at least once or twice a month with a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach. They also recommend emptying birdbaths and refilling them with fresh water daily, scattering birdfeeders around the yard instead of clustering them in one place, and raking or sweeping up uneaten hulls, which can harbor diseases for several days.

The threat of spreading diseases is one reason why PETA recommends that birdwatchers rely more on planting flowers, trees, and shrubs that attract birds as opposed to stocking birdfeeders during the growing season. (Birdfeeders are best used during the winter,  when birds are less able to forage on their own.) Filling your yard with plants like holly, cotoneaster, pyracantha, viburnum, and snowberry can provide cover and nesting opportunities for birds, in addition to food.

Hungry for more info? You can read about planting a backyard habitat for birds in PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk’s book Making Kind Choices and in the Home and Garden section of PETA Prime.

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3 Comments

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    Christine says...

    May 14th, 2010, 2:52 pm

    Thanks for this informative article. I live in Arizona and the finches flock to my finchfeeder. I realize now that they must be sanitized regularly. never thought of it.

    cath ens says...

    May 17th, 2010, 7:27 am

    while feeding birds offers many chances to view free-living creatures at close hand – I’m wondering if feeding is indeed best. Feeding any type of wildlife has another side. The side that means we are putting out an artificial source of food, which in turn could boost reproduction. It also, tends to “tame” wildlife into coming closer to people’s homes and this is not always a positive – not everyone is happy when wildlife comes visiting. I agree that we should plant gardens to give butterflies, frogs and birds and other wildlife a place to shelter, but i think it is important to encourage them to find their own food sources.

    nancy says...

    January 4th, 2011, 4:19 am

    I don’t use bleach. It’s toxic and its production creates dioxins. If you breathe it you inhale dioxins and dioxins can never be cleansed from the body. It also pollutes our water. So I use vinegar and water instead. I imagine you could also use hydrogen peroxide, which isn’t toxic either. It’s best to use a scrub brush to get rid of the bacteria. I’m referring to bird baths in my post. For bird feeders, couldn’t soapy, warm water and a sponge be enough?

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