Spring migration is a physically demanding time for birds. Imagine the physicality of flying from Central or South America with the added challenges of unpredictable food sources and confusing high-rise tower lights along the way. This is a time when readily available energy can literally mean life or death. Bird feeders well-stocked with high-quality, high-fat foods can really help.
Another current obstacle is disease. Two highly contagious bird illnesses, Avian Influenza and Conjunctivitis, are in the region, which poses a conundrum: these diseases are readily spread at feeders, but the birds could really use the support that feeders provide.
What to do?
- Clean your feeders often with a 10% bleach solution: ideally, at least once a week. Rinse them well, and be sure they are completely dry before refilling.
- Keep your feeders well stocked with high-quality food. Consider hulled seed to reduce the time birds need to spend at the feeder, which will save time and energy spent accessing the food’s calories and could potentially reduce disease transmission by having individuals spend less time at the feeder.
- Clean debris from under your feeders. Avian influenza can spread through bird faeces, so a cleaner area can reduce disease transmission.
- Remove your feeders if you see any sick birds. The Federal government has created a page to help you learn what to look for and how to report a sick bird.
- Don’t set up feeders in the vicinity of chickens or poultry, as these birds tend to be more vulnerable to the diseases than are wild ones.
Believe it or not, the war in Ukraine could affect the global supply chain for sunflower seeds (Ukraine accounts for about 10% of the global sunflower seed export), which could increase sunflower seed prices everywhere. In addition, the timing of the war seems likely to prevent seed sowing for the fall 2022 harvest, so these effects on price could persist for a while.
That’s a lot to take in!
But fear not, with a little extra effort, you can then relax knowing you’re providing the birds in your yard the support they need in a safe way.