Moore: Check your seed feeders for mold
Our abundant monsoon rains have been awesome! It is amazing how quickly everything greens up within just a few days of the first storm. Our bird feeding area looks like a lawn with thousands of millet and black oil sprouts carpeting the ground.
Earlier this week, a customer asked how she can keep her bird seed dry. My suggestion during monsoon season is to get in the habit of filling your feeders daily — but only fill them with a one-day supply of seed. This way, if it rains at some point during the day, only a limited amount of seed will potentially get wet.
This suggestion may seem like a lot of work. However, the tradeoff for filling feeders daily with small amounts of food is that you will not have to do a deep cleaning if your feeders are filled to the brim and all of the seed gets wet. Plus, you won’t waste as much seed.
Earlier this week, we added a new link to the Resources page on the Jay’s Bird Barn website. The article is titled, “The Importance of checking your wild Birdfeeders for Mold.” To access the full article, click on the Resources tab on the home page and scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find the link.
With all of the rain we have had recently, your birdfeeders can easily become infested with mold. If birds inhale mold or fungus spores they can become diseased and could possibly die. Like pet ownership, if you feed birds, you should do so responsibly and should strive to minimize the risk of diseases at your feeders.
The article points out the four problems with wet bird seed, which are smell, stickiness and clumping, sprouting, and mold.
The best way to prevent all of these conditions is to keep the birdseed in your feeders dry.
Using a style of feeder with recessed ports, such as a tube feeder, helps protect seed from getting wet. Feeders with a mesh material are good, as there is more air flow and the moisture can wick to the edges of the feeder. If you are using a hopper feeder, it is important that it has adequate drainage.
Another consideration when trying to keep bird seed dry is to use either a weather dome or a rain guard — metal or plastic covers that can be placed directly over seed feeders.
If you already have a mold problem (go check!), I recommend taking down your feeders and giving them a thorough cleaning, using a mild bleach solution, followed by a vinegar rinse. Allow the feeders to air dry before refilling.
Not only are seed feeders more susceptible to bacteria and mold, but nectar feeders can also get contaminated by rain water — especially if the feeder is hung under a tree. Several of my hummingbird feeders are hanging in juniper trees.
After a hard rain, the sugar water is no longer clear, but is a dirty amber color as pollen, dirt, and pieces of the tree end up in the sugar water solution.
Moving your hummingbird feeders away from trees will help prevent this. If you can hang your feeders under the eaves of your home, this would be an excellent solution to the problem.
If your feeders are hanging out in the open, it is likely the sugar water solution will get diluted by rain water. I would suggest making up some extra sugar water and keeping it in the refrigerator so you quickly replace the nectar in your feeders.
Any time we get a lot of moisture you will need to spend more time maintaining your feeders.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona — Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.