Every garden pole and bird feeder bracket now sit empty, except for the single bird perched there wondering “what’s happened to my food?”
The best intentions: Down, all of the feeders have been removed in hopes of population disbursement, encouraging the birds to move on. To an avid backyard birder this is heart-wrenching, especially during nesting season and migration. Disease has been confirmed and is being spread through feeders. Even the cleanest set-up won’t stop the spread of salmonella, respiratory, or air-born diseases in birds once its taken hold. Bleached and sparkly clean feeders mean nothing since it takes only one infected bird to start the cycle again.
Safety’s not always in numbers: Finches and pine siskins tend to travel and congregate in large groups. Even though there’s ample feeding stations to accommodate them, they’re more susceptible to the spread of respiratory disease or bacterial infection when large groups feed together.
Course of action: Obligated to do the right thing because attracting birds with feeders brings with it a responsibility to those birds. First and foremost is to remove all feeders. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center lists 4 diseases and 8 precautionary steps to keep disease at bay. It will be about two weeks before the feeders are placed for use again. The ground’s been raked clean, and feeders will be sanitized with 10% bleach solution.
The sight of a sickly bird is fairly obvious if you notice the signs. Lethargic and almost easy to catch, ruffled, unkept feathers, puffed out and sometimes shaking (even though it’s not cold), and swollen eyes or eyelids. They have trouble eating and fly slowly. Upon seeing a dead pine siskin with no signs of trauma last week, the thought of disease had entered my mind. Another the next day, and then a dead goldfinch in full summer breeding plumage confirmed the realization that I’m not helping the birds… but rather killing them 🙁
So now, I’m not sure who’s more upset? The frantic cardinals perching on empty poles and feeder brackets, the confused nuthatches and chickadees who are nesting and already have clutches, or myself, the one responsible for creating the mess? Woe is me, and what a rotten way to start the week 🙁