Lots of callers to WildCare’s Living with Wildlife Hotline (415-456-7283) have been asking about the HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) outbreak that is moving across the United States. Callers are wondering whether it’s safe to have bird feeders out.
WildCare always advises against feeding wildlife, primarily because feeding stations can be a hot spot for the spread of diseases like HPAI.
However, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and you already have feeders up…
1. you don’t keep poultry or pet birds, and
2. you do not have flocks of wild turkeys or quail who pass through your yard/area,
THEN for the time being it still appears to be safe to keep feeders up.
BUT- it is now more important than ever to be an extra-responsible feeder of birds!
Please make these commitments to keep the birds safe.
1. Commit to thoroughly washing and disinfecting (with bleach) feeders and baths once a week. Scroll down for WildCare's recommended bird feeder and birdbath cleaning protocols.
2. Commit to removing all feeders and baths if sick birds show up in your yard;
3. Commit to keeping abreast of the spread of Avian Influenza and
4. Commit to REMOVING your feeders and baths entirely the moment HPAI infection is reported in the Bay Area.
According to the National Wildlife Disease Program the current strain is extremely contagious and deadly in poultry as well as raptors, and also affects waterfowl.
While it currently doesn’t appear to pose a significant risk to songbirds, remember that your feeders attract songbirds, which in turn attract raptors who prey on those birds, and who are, in fact, highly susceptible. Feeders can also attract turkeys and quail, two other highly susceptible species.
Providing bird feeders attracts animals into an area where they might not have congregated otherwise, increasing the risk of spreading Avian Influenza (and other diseases). This time of year, natural food sources are plentiful, the wild birds do not need your assistance to survive. We encourage you to think twice before providing feeders at this time.
This article from Cornell Ornithology’s All About Birds, includes the latest info about the current outbreak and how to protect your poultry and pet birds from HPAI. Read it at bit.ly/CornellHPAI2022
Recommended Protocols for Disinfecting Bird Feeders and Bird Baths
- Bird feeders should be disinfected every week to prevent HPAI and other disease outbreaks.
- Bird baths should be emptied and cleaned daily regardless of disease outbreaks.
- To properly clean bird feeders: Do not use wooden feeders. Immerse feeders in bleach solution (9 parts water to 1 part bleach.) Soak 10 minutes, scrub, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry fully before refilling (a dry feeder will deter mold growth on seeds).
- To properly clean bird baths: You can make a 9:1 bleach solution in a jug to bring outside. Scrub with a hard brush, cover with board while soaking to prevent birds bathing in bleach, rinse very thoroughly, allow to dry before refilling.
Baths and other water sources should be emptied and refilled DAILY, and all water sources must be bleached (see above) weekly.
- To properly clean hummingbird feeders: NO BLEACH! Change food often. Clean and fill with only enough to last 1-2 days (sooner if gets cloudy/moldy). Use vinegar and water in a 9:1 solution (9 parts water to 1 part vinegar) and special bottle brushes to get into small holes. Rinse thoroughly!
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling feeders or baths.