The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) urged proper maintenance of bird feeders could help prevent disease transmission, particularly in these late winter months when songbirds are especially vulnerable.
New Yorkers can help curtail the spread of disease in songbirds by emptying and cleaning feeders and birdbaths with hot soapy water at least every two weeks. It is also a good idea to soak feeders in a dilute 10 percent bleach solution and allow them to dry before re-hanging them. Waste seed on the ground beneath feeders should be cleaned up and discarded. Spreading feeders out and relocating feeders periodically can also limit the build-up of waste. Practice good hygiene when cleaning feeders and birdbaths by wearing gloves to handle seed waste and washing hands after performing maintenance.
Salmonellosis or “Songbird Fever” is among the most common diseases associated with bird feeders. Outbreaks can affect many bird species including cardinals, goldfinches, sparrows, cowbirds and pine siskins. The bacteria can be shed in the bird’s feces even when the bird appears healthy. Salmonellosis can spread through contact with infected birds, contaminated seed, seed waste on the ground or water in birdbaths. It is important to note that salmonellosis is a zoonotic disease and can be spread to both people and domestic animals.